Picture child's feet next to pens, pencils and paper

Open Access research that is helping to improve educational outcomes for children

Strathprints makes available scholarly Open Access content by researchers in the School of Education, including those researching educational and social practices in curricular subjects. Research in this area seeks to understand the complex influences that increase curricula capacity and engagement by studying how curriculum practices relate to cultural, intellectual and social practices in and out of schools and nurseries.

Research at the School of Education also spans a number of other areas, including inclusive pedagogy, philosophy of education, health and wellbeing within health-related aspects of education (e.g. physical education and sport pedagogy, autism and technology, counselling education, and pedagogies for mental and emotional health), languages education, and other areas.

Explore Open Access education research. Or explore all of Strathclyde's Open Access research...

Curriculum differentiation and social inequality in higher education entry in Scotland and Ireland

Iannelli, Cristina and Smyth, Emer and Klein, Markus (2016) Curriculum differentiation and social inequality in higher education entry in Scotland and Ireland. British Educational Research Journal, 42 (4). pp. 561-581. ISSN 0141-1926

Text (Iannelli-Smyth-Klein-BERJ2015-curriculum-differentiation-and-social-inequality-in-higher-education-entry-in-scotland-and-ireland)
Final Published Version
License: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 logo

Download (224kB) | Preview


This paper examines the relative importance of upper secondary subject choice and attainment in explaining social inequalities in access to higher education (HE) in Scotland and Ireland. These two countries differ in the extent of curriculum differentiation, in the degree of standardisation in school examination and in HE entry criteria. In particular, in Scotland subject choice in upper secondary education is more differentiated (both in terms of number and type of subjects taken) and allocation of places in HE is less standardised and more dependent upon the subjects studied at school than in Ireland. Given these institutional differences, we expected subject choices to be more important for explaining social origin differences in HE entry and access to prestigious institutions in Scotland than in Ireland. Because of increasing student competition for HE places, we further hypothesised the growing importance of school subjects over time in mediating social inequalities in HE entry in both countries, more so in Scotland than in Ireland. Our results confirm that subject choice is a stronger mediator of social inequalities in HE entry and access to prestigious universities in Scotland while attainment is more important in Ireland. Contrary to our expectations, the role of subject choice in HE entry has not become more important over time. However, in Scotland subject choice continues to be a strong mediator for social inequalities in HE entry.