The relationship between pre-university schooling and university grades in Uganda

C.V. Nshemereirwe

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT

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Universities are concerned with selecting students with the highest potential for successfully pursuing university education. For universities in Uganda, this potential is, apparently, sufficiently indicated by student performance in the national examinations at the end of the advanced level (A’Level) of secondary school. However, due to an unprecedented rise in enrolments at all levels of the pre-university system, competition to enter university in Uganda has become extremely high in the last 20 years. This has been accompanied by a widening gap in the quality of secondary schools, which are for the most part stratified along socioeconomic lines. As such, a disproportionate number of enrolled university students are from high socioeconomic backgrounds and are recruited from the top performing secondary schools. The PhD study reported here set out to investigate the relationship between pre-university conditions (both individual and school level) and student performance at university; specifically, the extent to which the university entry A’Level scores predicted university grades after allowing for student SES, former school and the subjects taken at A’Level. This was done using Structural Equation Modelling (SEM), and the major findings of the study were the following: a) At least 30% of student performance at A’Level can be attributed to differences in A’Level school quality (known as a “School Effect”) b) SES is a strong predictor of academic performance at the level preceding A’Level (the O’Level), and the O’Level is in turn a strong predictor of A’Level performance c) Even after allowing for student and A’Level school factors, the university entry grades were found to be fairly predictive of university grades (a standardised effect size of about 0.3). These findings notwithstanding, the differences in A’Level school quality as reflected by the school effect remain a concern since they unfairly deny some equally able students a shot at university. Further, as a country it is necessary to address the imbalance reflected by the disproportionate number of high SES students at university if we are to achieve sustainable development.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Twente
  • Glas, Cees A.W., Supervisor
Award date20 Nov 2014
Place of PublicationEnschede
Print ISBNs978-90-365-3738-4
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2014


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