Progression routes and attainment in occupational therapy education: The impact of students' background characteristics

Watson, Joanna (2011) Progression routes and attainment in occupational therapy education: The impact of students' background characteristics. In, British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, London, GB,


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Occupational therapy (OT) pre-registration education in the United Kingdom (UK) straddles the fields of higher education (HE) and professional practice. Responding to various government agendas, including widening participation in HE and the diversification of the health and social care workforce to reflect modern cultural diversity, has contributed to a changing OT student population. In 2005, 67% of the intake was mature (COT, 2007), and increasing numbers are entering with ‘non-traditional’ academic backgrounds, an umbrella term encompassing a variety of entry qualifications.

Monitoring the impact of changing demographics, a small body of existing evidence suggests that the final marks dictating degree classifications are indistinguishable for OT students holding traditional and non-traditional entry qualifications (Howard and Jerosch-Herold, 2000; Howard and Watson, 1998; Shanahan, 2004). In each study, only the attainment of graduating students is included; those who left prior to completion were not considered. None of the studies considered the potential influence of students’ socio-economic background or gender.

A survey of the progression routes and academic achievements of 239 consenting OT students considered the influence of entry qualifications, maturity at entry, gender and socio-economic backgrounds. The sample represents 87% of those registering with one of four consecutive cohorts on a single programme between 2003 and 2006.

Access, A-Level and AVCE awards were the most commonly recorded entry qualifications amongst the sample. Older mature students (aged over 25 years entry) were strongly associated with non-traditional academic backgrounds, even after excluding those who held previous degrees. Binary logistic regression analysis highlighted that while the nature of students’ entry qualifications had no significant impact on the identified outcomes of passing at Level 4, 5 and 6 and achieving a ‘good’ (upper second or first class) honours degree, male gender and a background from amongst the lower socio-economic groups were significant predictors of poorer outcomes at all levels of analysis. Male gender was the stronger predictor in relation to passing Level 4, while a background from the lower socio-economic groups was the stronger for the other outcomes.

As previous research into OT student attainment has neglected to consider gender, socio-economic background and students who failed to graduate from their programmes, these findings represent a significant contribution to the current body of knowledge.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Related URLs:
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
R Medicine > RM Therapeutics. Pharmacology
Divisions : Faculty of Health Sciences > Physical & Rehabilitation Health
ePrint ID: 196495
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
7 September 2011Delivered
Date Deposited: 08 Sep 2011 08:15
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 13:44

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