University of Aveiro (PORTUGAL)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2014 Proceedings
Publication year: 2014
Pages: 6064-6071
ISBN: 978-84-617-2484-0
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 7th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 17-19 November, 2014
Location: Seville, Spain
A research project on Non-Traditional Students (NTS) in Higher Education (HE) is being carried out in two Portuguese HE institutions (University of Aveiro and University of Algarve). The pertinence of this project, that started in May 2013 and is funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology (the main Portuguese funding agency), comes from the lack of systematised research on NTS in HE in Portugal, from conceptual, theoretical and empirical perspectives.

Although the project is constituted by four interconnected research lines, considering learning experiences and trajectories of four different groups of NTS, the authors intend here to focus on one line in particular: the non-traditional adult students’ employability. Non-traditional adult students (NTAS) - also called mature students - are in this context categorised as adults with more than 23 years old with specific academic, professional, familiar and social characteristics and who have accessed HE through a special gateway (Bago, Fonseca & Santos, in press; Baptista, 2011; Gonçalves et al., 2011).

Within the identified research line, the main goals are to analyse the transitions of NTAS to the labour market together with the progression and/or change in their careers. Intertwined with those aspects, it is also our purpose to understand their perspectives on the impact of their academic path and experience, on their working lives, in two moments: during the attendance of the courses and after completing HE. Thus, through data collection, it will be possible to hear these students’ opinions regarding the way they see their previous academic path, its impact in and/or its adjustment to the labour market and in their working lives. More than just adopting a systematic and straightforward analysis of data, the authors want to understand NTAS’ experiences and perspectives in an integrated way.

Accordingly, an exploratory data collection of qualitative nature through in-depth interviews was designed, and subsequent interviews were implemented (n=14 - 20% of the entire sample). The participants are NTAS who have entered the University of Aveiro in the academic years 2006/07 and 2007/08 and concluded their degrees. The main objective of this specific study is to analyse NTAS’ trajectories at the HE institution and at work, particularly by collating the perceptions they have on the intersection between
(i) the course, the competences developed at HE, and their working life,
(ii) the competences they had already acquired in the labour market that were important when attending HE and to successfully conclude their degrees.

Considering the bridges that must be established between working life and learning, the authors aim to engage in enriching reflections with the academic community, particularly on the specific topic here described. Following lifelong learning perspectives and taking into account characteristics of today’s world (namely globalization and uncertainty), we hope this study may also address other contexts’ concerns.
Higher education, non-traditional adult students, employability, competences' development.