Mature women students and higher education: do their skills count?

Mallia, Carole (2010) Mature women students and higher education: do their skills count? PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This thesis examines the experience of a group of mature women students before, during and after their period of study in higher education. Specific research areas of investigation focus on their existing skills, and the value they give to these skills, and those they develop over their time of study.

The context for the study is provided by an examination of the historical development of girls’ and women’s education, looking specifically at its gendered nature. Similarly, the development of universities is examined, in particular, debates on what universities are for, and how they are increasingly linked to providing an educated and skilled workforce rather than being autonomous institutions of education.

The research is situated in a period of keen interest in skills development, when many universities were considering their development in some form or other. This sets the context for the women participants in this study in schools that were piloting key skills in different ways. This is explored in relation to their experience of this burgeoning interest in skills.

The research approach used was chosen to enhance understanding of the issues that affect mature women students returning to learning. It draws heavily on feminist methodology and is also influenced by the work of Michel Foucault and Paolo Freire. These theorists are used to shed light on how issues of power are endemic within the society in which this research takes place. The feminist methodology employed has allowed me to become part of the research, and to reflect upon my own experiences as a mature student in higher education as well as those of the other participants.

The research analysis is based heavily upon multiple semi-structured interviews conducted with each of the women. The analysis reveals how the women feel their skills are valued both by themselves and by the institute of higher education where they studied and by wider society. Whilst the women feel that they have considerable skills as mature women, the discussion reveals a number of interesting factors regarding which skills the women expect to be valued in the wider world compared to the skills they value in themselves.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Murphy, R.J.L.
Convery, A.E.
Keywords: women in higher education, Great Britain, mature women students, skills, feminist methodology
Subjects: L Education > LC Special aspects of education > LC1390 Education of special classes of persons
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Education
Item ID: 11821
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 27 Apr 2011 13:16
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2017 05:25

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