Online PhD defence: Science Students' Choices in Higher Education

Date: April 29, 2021, 14.00

VenueLink Arrow Zoom link 

Doctoral candidateLink Arrow Katia Bill Nielsen


The thesis examines students’ choice processes in higher education, focusing especially on the choice of master’s programmes. The findings in the thesis is based on ethnographic fieldwork, among second-year bachelor’s students in the three programmes: chemistry, computer science and natural resources.

The dissertation consists of four papers. The first paper investigates the students’ experiences of choosing and explores how they navigate these choices. The paper shows that navigating through higher education presents both ambiguities and challenges to the students, who learn as they go along, discover new paths and thus change direction as they move through the landscape of higher education. The paper argues that making choices is an integral part of being a student and an inherent part of what it means to study.

The second paper explores students’ choice processes regarding choosing a master’s programme. It shows that, an important aspect of choosing is considerations about possible futures and where different choices might lead. However, for some students it was difficult to imagine where their educational path was leading or how they could pursue desired futures. Thus, even though the future belongs to the realm of the imagination, it has very real influences on the students’ current choices and the way they feel about them.

The third paper examines how the culture within a study programme affects students’ aspirations, and their educational and career choices. Focusing on chemistry, the paper found that everyday practices and structures formed a culture that positioned research at the centre and left high school teaching as a less attractive career path.

The fourth paper show how students relate to time in relation to their study programmes. The paper finds that students relate to several temporal horizons at once and that these horizons require different paces. Sometimes, therefore, the different horizons clashed. An important finding of the paper is that students also adopted strategies to resist the fast pace, and change this, in order to make time for immersion and reflection.

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