The Transition from School to University: Pressure and Coping in Catalonia (Spain)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 4:00 PM
Room: F204
Oral Presentation
Tanja Conni STRECKER , Geography and Sociology, University of Lleida, Lleida, Spain
In this paper I present results from a study about university transitions in Spain. Young people face uncertainty, precariousness and discourses that individualize structural problems currently in most Western societies. Spain suffers, moreover, from the severe effects of economic crisis and high unemployment, accompanied by severe cutbacks in the education system and an increase of university fees. Hence, the pressure on young people is growing further, and the contradiction between high skills and little or no power is especially pronounced. In the paper at hand I aim to identify main pressures, affecting young people in their transition from school to university, and their shown coping strategies.

In spring 2011 I conducted twelve focus groups with pupils in their last year of post-obligatory education in public, semi-public and private schools in an urban and a rural context in Catalonia and from September 2011 to May 2012 I accomplished 21 interviews with some of the participants, amplifying the sample with first-year students from underrepresented groups. I selected and analyzed several of the focus groups and interviews with the documentary method including elements of intersectional analysis.

The end of school is characterized by uncertainties and pressures, especially related to being admitted to the chosen studies, the study choice itself and fears not to be successful in university – both, academically and socially. Students experience these pressures differently and show varying strategies to handle them, whereat their personal characteristics, structural dimensions and representations interact. I identify types along the dimensions worried/non-worried and idealistic/pragmatic, relating those to gender and social class. The comparison with the follow-up interviews does not only reveal additional problems in the further transition to university and throughout the first year of studies, but enables considering the encountered difficulties from a different perspective, adding insights due to the methodological triangulation.