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Variation in Occupational Attainment Between Schools: Analysis of Data on Cohorts of School Students and their Occupational Attainment in Adult Life

Faculty of Social Sciences

About the Project

This project applies an innovative sampling technique to explore an issue central to social mobility, but which conventional studies cannot adequately address. There is well known variation between schools in the outcomes that students experience, for instance related to private schooling and inequalities within the state sector (Boliver 2013; Gamsu 2018; Ferguson and Griffiths 2018). However, there are no existing UK datasets which facilitate investigation of outcomes in adulthood for school leaving cohorts with linked data about their schools. Large-scale secondary surveys generally recruit randomly from the entire population and don’t feature different respondents who are known to have been at the same school; some specialist studies have interviewed people whilst at school, but it is expensive, difficult and impractical to follow those individuals into later adult life. Nevertheless an analysis that could link cohorts of school students with data on their occupational outcomes later in life would be of great benefit to understanding the patterns and mechanisms of social mobility.
This project will construct a dataset that links a cohort of individuals (now aged 35/36) who were educated within any school (state or private) within two Scottish local authorities, irrespective of their current location. This dataset will be constructed through an innovative snowball sampling technique that takes advantage of how people use social media. This approach will gather data which can be analysed to compare people from the same areas, looking at how their social background, educational qualifications and the specific institutions that they attended are associated with their occupational attainment in adulthood. The doctoral student will both collect this data and analyse it using a range of techniques including multi-level modelling and social network analysis. The project is best suited to a student with previous training in sociology or cognate fields, and in social science research methods. Further training on relevant aspects of data preparation and analysis will be available within the PhD programme.
This project will enable us to understand more of the processes involved in social mobility, such as the privileges that those from advantaged schools may enjoy across the life-course. It will be particularly innovative in exploring how processes and experiences associated with the specific school that a person attended might influence occupational attainment long after the completion of school-age education.
We are committed to creating a workplace that promotes and values diversity. We strongly encourage applications from people from diverse backgrounds including gender identity, race, age, class, and ethnicity.


Boliver, V. (2013). How fair is access to more prestigious UK universities?. British journal of sociology, 64(2), pp.344-364.
Ferguson, J.M. and Griffiths, D. (2018). Preparing Versus Persuading: Inequalities between Scottish State schools in University Application Guidance Practices. Social Sciences, 7(9), p.169.
Gamsu, S. (2018). The ‘other ’London effect: the diversification of London's suburban grammar schools and the rise of hyper‐selective elite state schools. British journal of sociology, 69(4), pp.1155-1174.

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