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#EAIR2019 Programme

#EAIR2019 Programme

How social background affects admission and retention



Institutional Research for Responsibility


Michael Møller Nielsen, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

Single presentation - 30 Minutes



In Denmark HE is free of charge. Students even receive a grant from the state if they are studying at a university. This policy should lead to equal access to HE and make students independent of their family background. At CBS, it is a central objective to contribute to social mobility by promoting equal chances of getting a Business School degree, and thus the possibility to have a career in business or governmental management. This study shows how social background actually affects students’ chances of being admitted to CBS and, if enrolled, their risk of dropout. Data on all applicants in 2015 were gathered and merged with Statistics Denmark’s data on family income and the educational level of adults in the families, in which the applicants were members in the year they turned 15 years old. Data are analyzed by use of regression techniques. It turns out that applicants from more privileged homes have far better chances of being admitted because admission is heavily based on grades from the entry exam, and grades are significantly influenced by social background. Applicants from homes with an academic education have almost twice as good a chance to be admitted as applicants from unskilled homes. The risk of dropout is also significantly affected by social background. But, surprisingly, family income is more important than the educational level in the family. Students from low-income families have 62% higher dropout risk than students from high-income homes.

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