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Questioning non-completion in higher education : a study within the Argentine system

By Carolina Junemann


The rate of undergraduate non-completion at public universities in Argentina is high by\ud international comparison. However, the understanding of its causes has been obscured by a\ud polarized debate between the government and the university community on issues of efficiency\ud and funding. In this context, the experiences non-completers have been neglected amid an oversimplification\ud of the complex set of factors at play in non-completion.\ud This thesis examines the issues, factors and definition of non-completion within public\ud universities in Argentina by exploring the lives of students and their decision-making\ud processes. It draws primarily on qualitative data collected in a single case study institution\ud through semi-structured interviews. Theoretical and methodological weaknesses in the\ud dominant international approaches to non-completion are identified, particularly in relation to\ud Tinto's well-known model of integration. A critical research tradition is employed to draw\ud attention instead to wider social and cultural influences in non-completion, and over and\ud against perspectives that focus on the student-as-the-problem which underplay the role of\ud institutional practices.\ud Non-completion within the case study institution is neither simply a personal nor an\ud institutional phenomenon and cannot be reduced to or explained solely in those terms and at\ud those levels. Non-completion has to be understood as part of a decision-making process within\ud a complex interplay of institutions, families, communities, social class and national (economic\ud and political) factors both in relation to individual and institutional action. The findings also\ud highlight the role of 'institutional habitus' (Reay et al., 2005) in underlining the significance of\ud the types of capital differently available to, held by and embodied in the students; and therefore\ud illustrate ways in which institutional practices and cultures can work, albeit unintentionally, to\ud systematically advantage some students to the detriment of others within public universities

Year: 2010
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