Who studies at our university?

Analyzing 15-year evolution of the access to public university in Catalonia (2002-2017)

Authors: Albert Sánchez-Gelabert, Helena Troiano, Marina Elias, Dani Torrents, Lidia Daza (Grup de Recerca Educació i Treball – Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)
Collaborators: Vera Sacristán
Edition: Vera Sacristán
Date: octubre 2019

Executive Summary

The goal of this study is to explore the evolution of social composition in Catalan public universities, taking into account the different context changes and their impact on the access of potential students, according to their social origin. 

The main conclusions of the study are the following: 

The chances of successfully following a university access pathway are strongly conditioned by the students’ social origin: 

  • The offspring of people with university degrees are overrepresented at university: they make up 47.1% of the students who enter university, while they are only 26.2% of the 19-year-old population. On the opposite end, young people with parents with only compulsory studies are underrepresented: only 24.3% of young people who enroll at university, while they constitute 39.5% of the population of 19 years old. The sons and daughters of people with post-compulsory secondary education are also underrepresented, although to a less impressive extent: they form 28.6% of the youth who enter university and 34.3% of the total young population. 
  • In other terms: the rate of university access among students with parents with university studies is 82.6. Among the sons and daughters of parents with post-compulsory studies, it is 38.2. In the case of students with parents without further studies than the mandatory, it is 28.3. 

Evolutionarily, there is a change in the trend in the global rate of access to public universities: 

  • Throughout the period 2002-11, the access rate grows, and the growth accelerates as of 2008. 
  • Between 2011 and 2014 there is a strong slowdown. 
  • As of 2014 it decreases. 

The decrease in the rate of access to public universities that occurs in the last period 2014-17 is observed in all social groups, but with more incidence the higher the level of studies of the parents. 

Access to private universities decreases until 2013, and then increases substantially: more than 26 % in the 2013-18 period (5 years). Lately, then, it is a fact that the private university has gained weight in the whole of the Catalan university system. 

Elements that may explain the decrease in the rate of access to public universities: 

  • Improvement of work possibilities. 
  • Substantial tuition fee increase in public universities. 
  • Increased offer of studies by private universities. 
  • Increased student access to Higher Degree Formative Cycles (high vocational education). 
Categories: Report


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