Trajectories of Risk and Uncertainty? Medical School Students and Their Vocational Choices

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 6:06 PM
Room: Booth 52
Oral Presentation
Maria Manuel VIEIRA , University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal
In Portugal, the imposition of a numerus clausus system at the HE entrance has contributed to the strengthening of a hierarchy of excellence in the school system. At the same time, it has introduced an increased uncertainty regarding the possibility to accomplish future projects and ambitions.

The case of medical courses has been paradigmatic in this regard. Its high demand has fixed permanently, academic excellence as an entry requirement. The access to a medical school implies some effort and sacrifices that not every young student is willing to take.  Namely, because it implies a tension between the need to invest in studying on a highly competitive basis (thus focusing on future projects) and the desire to invest in youth sociability practices, under a high peer pressure (which are rooted on the present). 

Obtaining and maintaining high grades along the secondary education is a long-term process (built during the three years of secondary education), but highly uncertain and risky: a single moment (an exam, an assessment) can ruin everything.

This presentation aims to analyze the processes involving Medical School entrance in Portugal. In particular, we intend to confront students’ investment on a highly competitive vocational pathway (Medicine) with their awareness of risks that may emerge along with their option.

The analysis is drawn upon data collected within the project "Failure and dropout at the University of Lisbon: scenarios and trajectories", a recently completed research project sponsored by the Portuguese Science and Technology Foundation (Project No. PTDC/ESC/64875/2006). In particular, it will explore data from in-depth interviews conducted in the academic year 2009/2010 to the students that in the previous academic year had entered the 1st year of medical school at the University of Lisbon.