What students learned at university
The previous three chapters have considered the diversity of the student experience of higher education in terms of the contexts provided by different university settings and different fields of study and in terms of differences between students in respect of their backgrounds, lifestyles and orientations to higher education. Now we move on to the question of ‘what was learned’ and the extent to which there were differences in the outcomes of learning according to differences in contexts of study and types of student. In the present chapter, we utilise some established theories of learning in higher education and the research instruments, which have been developed as part of them, in order to pose questions of ‘what was learned’ that in principle cut across differences in subject content. Of course, the students learned more or less substantive knowledge of bioscience, business studies and sociology but this learning can also be conceptualised in more general terms of cognitive development. This is the approach adopted here, one which we believe is particularly appropriate given the ‘generalist’ traditions of higher education in the UK and the generally looser relationship between the subject studied and future career discussed in Chapter 1.