Financial literacy and higher education choices: the gender expectations gap

Gruzdeva, Kristina (2022). Financial literacy and higher education choices: the gender expectations gap. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

Text - Redacted Version
Available under License All rights reserved.

Download (12MB) | Preview


This study examines young people’s understanding of, and attitudes towards, the financial side of studying for a degree. It focuses on the relationships between understanding, perceptions, and university choices in England. First, this study looks at the graduate salary expectations of A-level students, including how much they think they would earn if they graduated from university and how much they think graduates earn on average. Second, A-level students' beliefs about the size of the graduate premium and their confidence in the predictions are analysed. Finally, the study explores first-year undergraduate students’ perceptions of value for money in relation to their degree. Their views are considered together with their understanding of how the student finance system works. Previous research tended to focus on graduate salary expectations of current university students and graduates, but rather less attention has been paid to the financial expectations of prospective university students. This study contributes to filling this research gap. As for research into value for money, there has been growing interest in how university students perceive it, but most studies have been content to survey data analysis. This study explores value for money through a moderated group discussion.

The findings revealed complex relationships between young people's understanding of student finance and their beliefs around the financial implications of studying for a degree. Overall, A-level students expect the average graduate salaries and their own salaries that are higher than actual salaries of similar graduates, with male students being more optimistic than their female peers in their expectations. University plans have relevance for salary expectations - students have more optimistic expectations about their potential salary when they are asked about the degree that they intend to study at university. When asked about the size of the graduate premium at age 30, both male and female students expected similar returns, which ignores the fact that the expected gains of attending university are much greater for women. Furthermore, male students are more confident than their female peers in their financial predictions. Focus group discussions with first-year students showed that they rarely considered information about the graduate salaries before starting their degree course. Students also seem to have fragmented knowledge of the English student finance system and tend to mention the cost associated with studying for a degree only when they think that their degree offers poor value for money. These findings demonstrate the financial benefits of studying for a degree are often assumed and are not accurate despite the government's effort to promote informed choice.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
School or Department: School of Education
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education


Request a Correction Request a Correction
View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year