Predicting outcomes in sport and exercise science degrees: the effect of qualification pathways

Jayne Hastings, Andrew Noyes

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In the UK, most prospective university students study ‘traditional’ academic qualifications such as A-Levels. However, increasing numbers of students are entering UK higher education with 'non-traditional' or vocational qualifications. This has provoked debate about the relationships between entry qualifications and degree outcomes; this paper investigates this relationship in sport and exercise science. Data from five large cohorts of undergraduates at a post-1992 university in the Midlands of England are analysed to investigate predictors of degree outcomes. The models predict better degree outcomes for those with higher UCAS tariff points; who studied A-Levels; who were female and white. Students entering with only vocational qualifications were more likely to be BME, male, and from poorer backgrounds. Therefore, the apparent associations between entry qualifications and outcomes can misrecognise the importance of the qualifications themselves. Students are not randomly distributed between post-16 qualification pathways and any associations with degree outcomes might be a function of factors that influenced choices at aged 16. This is particularly important now, amidst major reforms of post-16 qualifications in England, including the development of the new Technical Level qualifications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1337-1350
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Further and Higher Education
Issue number10
Early online date6 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - 26 Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way. The terms on which this article has been published allow the posting of the Accepted Manuscript in a repository by the author(s) or with their consent.


  • Sport and exercise science
  • level 3 qualifications
  • UCAS tariff points
  • degree outcomes
  • A-Level
  • BTEC


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