Understanding Success: Expectations, Heterogeneity, and Inputs in Higher Education

This study is the first phase of a longitudinal survey to track the traits, expectations, choices and outcomes of all students enrolling in 2015-16 and 2016-17 at one of the colleges of the University of London.

This first phase will look at students during their three years of undergraduate study. The researchers will quantify the environment that the students are exposed to, and examine how this interacts with students' own social and psychological characteristics and expectations. They will also explore how it shapes choices and outcomes during higher education and beyond.

Distinctively, the researchers will carry out longitudinal surveys of students and match this with large-scale datasets containing information on student choices and performance, course and programme features, class composition, and peer performance.

The study aims to bring this data together to shed light on these questions:

  • What are the expectations of students who embark on higher education studies with respect to study performance, career choices and labour market outcomes? How do expectations evolve over time?
  • How do choices and future success relate to individual differences such as social background, risk and time preferences, and non-cognitive skills?
  • How does the higher education environment shape expectations, satisfaction, choices, and outcomes within HE and in early careers? How does this interact with individual student differences?

In the second phase of the study, the researchers plan to continue tracking the students for three years after they finish their undergraduate studies.

Project details



Professor Dan AnderbergDr Arnaud Chevalier, Dr Melanie Luhrmann and Professor Ronni Pavan
Royal Holloway, University of London

Grant amount and duration:


September 2015 - January 2019



Anderberg, D., Chevalier, A., Lührmann, M. and Pavan, R., Expectations and Aspirations in Higher Education, Royal Hollway (July 2019): 

- Main report 

- Executive summary