What Specialties Are of Interest to Prospective Students: Survey Results

What Specialties Are of Interest to Prospective Students: Survey Results

Photo: ua.depositphotos.com / ArturVerkhovetskiy
14 June 2023
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The development of the education system is one of the critical areas in Ukraine Recovery Plan. This is understandable since education will not only influence the immediate recovery of Ukraine after the war’s end but also have long-term effects for decades to come. Ukrainian education problems, which existed before the full-scale invasion, have been further exacerbated by the war. Nevertheless, educational institutions are finding opportunities to organize the learning process both for those who have remained in Ukraine and those who have left (currently, more than 161,000 schoolchildren and 12,585 teachers are abroad).

We decided to find out what is crucial for Ukrainian schoolchildren and students when choosing educational institutions and specialties, as well as their intentions to pursue further education after finishing high school. U-Report, in partnership with Vox Ukraine, surveyed Ukrainian youth. The survey was carried out using chatbots on Facebook, Telegram, and Viber, with a total of 6,183 participants. While the sample is not representative, it provides valuable insights into young Ukrainians’ educational views. The survey included respondents under 14 and other age groups (see Figure 1). Among the participants, the largest portion (51.3%) already have a job; 16.3% are university students, 12.2% are secondary school students, and 10.8% are working students. For the purposes of this study, we will focus specifically on secondary school and university students, the majority of whom are under 25 years of age.

Figure 1. Distribution of respondents by age and occupation

Among school students from all age groups, 26.5% expressed their intention to enroll in college, while 57.8% aimed to enter higher education institutions. Additionally, 9.2% of respondents stated that they do not plan to continue their education after completing school. These proportions vary significantly based on the age of the respondents. Specifically, among students under 14, 57.1% plan to pursue their studies at a college, 29.9% aim for a university, 1.3% do not plan to continue their studies, and 11.7% selected “Other” as their choice (see Figure 2). Secondary school students who do not intend to enter a higher education institution cited the following reasons: 34.3% stated difficulty in choosing a specialty, 23.9% have not yet made a decision, 17.9% lack the desire to pursue further education, 4.5% face financial constraints, and 1.5% are prohibited by their parents.

Figure 2.

Such a high percentage of those willing to leave school may indeed be a motivating factor behind the reform of comprehensive secondary education, namely introducing lyceums specifically designed for students in grades 10-11 (and potentially 10-12 in the future). Therefore secondary school students who need to transfer to another educational institution after the 9th grade would be more inclined to choose a college where they can obtain a specific skill or specialization alongside their secondary education.

In the age group of 14-18, 22.1% plan to continue their studies in a college, and 63.6% in a higher education institution, with 8.8% having no intention to continue their education.

Among those intending to pursue higher education, the largest proportion (23.0%) has not yet determined their desired specialty. Meanwhile, 13.2% of respondents aspire to pursue a humanitarian field, and 11.1% are interested in computer science and IT. The fewest participants expressed plans to pursue mathematics and industrial specialties, with only 0.5% for each category.

In the breakdown of age groups (refer to Figure 3), it is observed that a larger percentage of schoolchildren under 14 years old (44%) remain undecided about their desired specialty, while this figure stands at 19.4% among high school students aged 14-18. Therefore, high school students generally have a clearer idea of the specialty they intend to pursue. A higher proportion of women (60%) express their intention to enter higher education than men (48%). Conversely, women have a lower percentage of planning to enter college (26%) than men (32%).

Figure 3.

A comparison of secondary school and university students also revealed interesting facts (Figure 4).

First, among today’s students, the proportion of those pursuing humanitarian disciplines stands at 20.2%. However, only 13.2% of schoolchildren express an intention to choose these disciplines. This observation may suggest both a decline in the overall popularity of humanities disciplines and the possibility that some students who initially intended to study in other fields eventually opt for humanities. Typically, the exact sciences witness fewer graduates and the average scores in the final examinations for these disciplines tend to be lower. Consequently, due to comparatively easier admission requirements, humanitarian specialties tend to be more popular than technical fields (excluding IT).

A similar trend can be observed with specialties such as management, entrepreneurship, finance, and accounting. Currently, 11.5% of students are studying these disciplines, while only 6% of secondary school students plan to pursue them. This could indicate a decline in the popularity of these specialties as well.

In contrast, in IT, the proportions of current students studying it and schoolchildren planning to study it both stand at 11%. However, it is noteworthy that men show a higher inclination toward IT. Their share among current and future students is three times higher than women’s.

Figure 4.

When it comes to selecting a place of study, the majority of interviewees prioritize criteria such as prestige or a high future salary (refer to Figure 5). According to this criterion, 44.5% of respondents base their decision on choosing a specialty (multiple answers were possible). In comparison, 32.7% choose an educational institution based on its rating, indicating a focus on education quality and professional prospects. Additionally, 21.4% consider the importance of low competition for budget-funded seats. Another 14% of students value the location of the university or college, preferring institutions that are easily accessible and situated near their place of residence.

Figure 5.

Therefore, when making decisions about their place of study, young people are more frequently driven by rational motives such as location, specialty, and the rating of educational institutions rather than relying solely on emotional factors such as advice from parents, friends, or acquaintances.

To attract more young people to pursue higher education, it is crucial to provide them with comprehensive information about potential career paths after graduation and highlight the possibilities of scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial support. Additionally, involving parents in this process is essential, as their support and guidance can often play a decisive role in choosing a place of study.

To achieve this, it is possible to create (or improve an existing) comprehensive and user-friendly website with information on all aspects of higher education, such as educational programs, admission requirements, tuition fees, financial aid, scholarships, and career prospects. This website should also include data on student outcomes, including graduation rates (success rates, average grades per subject, rankings, etc.), employment rates, salaries, and student debt, to assist prospective students and parents in making informed decisions regarding investments in higher education.

Regular surveys should be conducted to monitor the preferences of secondary school and university students and their parents. Likewise, conducting surveys among employers to gather information about salaries and the demand for specific specialists is equally important. This data is valuable for school and university students as they navigate their professional paths, and it also assists educational institutions in developing relevant programs.

Higher and vocational education institutions can partner with schools to educate secondary school students about their options for further education. Conducting vocational guidance programs for students up to 14 years old helps them decide between college and specialized programs in the 10th-11th grade. 

More proposals on reforming the Ukrainian education system can be found in our articles on the reconstruction of Ukraine.

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