Who chooses science? A study of third level undergraduate science students

Hayes, Sarah and Childs, Peter E. (2011) Who chooses science? A study of third level undergraduate science students. [Conference Proceedings]


Smyth and Hannon (2002) asked the question ‘Who chooses science?’ in relation to second level. This question needs also to be asked of third level students in science-based courses. This research study examines the factors affecting a student’s decision to take third level science-based courses. In particular it examines the influence of taking the Transition Year Programme (TYP) on this decision. Many variables affect a student’s enrolment in a Science course. (Politis et al., 2007) Our work is part of a broader project investigating the place of Science in the TYP, and its effect on students’ subject choices and career decisions.A questionnaire was developed for first year General Chemistry course at the University of Limerick. This module was taken by 400 students from Science, Science Education and Engineering courses. The questionnaire examined what factors were important in influencing the student to take a science-based degree. There was a response rate of 88.75% (N =355) to this questionnaire and the findings were analysed using SPSS 16.0.The preliminary analysis of the results shows a number of interesting findings. Parental influence towards taking a science-based 3rd level course was the strongest influence for all students (p < 0.005), followed by their subject teacher (p < 0.001). School type was also significant (p < 0.001) in affecting their choice of course, particularly for Engineering and Science students. Just under half the sample surveyed (43.0%) took the Transition Year (compared to 50.7% of the whole cohort), and this has had a significant effect on these students’ grades in the physical sciences for the Leaving Certificate, thus impacting on the courses taken by students at third level.ReferencesPolitis, Y., Killeavy, M., and Mitchell, P. I. (2007) ‘Factors influencing the take-up of physics within second-level education in Ireland – the teachers’ perspective’, Irish Educational Studies, 26 (1), 39-55.Smyth, E. and. Hannon, C., (2002) Who Chooses Science? Subject Take Up in Second Level Schools, 1st. ed., Ireland: The Liffey Press.

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