The vision of immigrant students about key factors and skills for access to college

  • Elena Cano García Universitat de Barcelona
  • Maite Fernández Ferrer Universitat de Barcelona
Keywords: Immigrants, Family, Academic Achievement


One of the most important challenges in education is working against absenteeism and school dropout. Especially relevant is the case of immigrant students who are a vulnerable group, fact that causes a high difference in results between immigrants and native students, so that only a very small percentage reaches college.

For this reason, the study “Competencies and keys for an educational success from the perspective of college students’ children of immigrants” (2009 ARAF1 00010) has sought to identify the key factors and skills that college students from immigrant families in Catalonia (Spain) feel have been useful for their educational success, educational success seen as the enrolment in programs beyond compulsory education.

The study methodology has been predominantly qualitative using three different sources of data collection: life stories, audiovisual narratives and questionnaires. Specifically for this article we refer to the results analyzed through the life stories of 13 college students from immigrant backgrounds who had done all or part of their primary school in the Spanish education system, considering for their selecting the age of arrival, their nationality and the variety of universities and degrees where they were enrolled.

The results of the study support the findings of previous researches (Aja et al.; Huguet & Navarro, 2006; Ferrer, 2009; OECD, 2010; Instituto de Evaluación, 2010). Student participants have referred to the importance of family expectations and support, especially when it has been given in conjunction with the school. They especially emphasized the role of mothers as a basic figure to encourage perseverance and dedication to studies. Moreover, in the educational environment it has been particularly appreciated the role the high school teachers who in many cases were the key on having great expectations for them and communicating these explicitly. Finally, regarding the competences, which have been the focus of our analysis, the intrapersonal and the self-confidence competences are the skills that students consider basic to overcome, as indicated by studies about resilience, adverse contexts and conditions.


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