Immigrant youth’s pathways into and through upper secondary education in Austria

An analysis of individual and contextual factors, aspirations, and decision-making processes

Maria Köpping

Mentor: Monika Mühlbock, Stefan Vogtenhuber
Advisor: Nadia Steiber
Institution: University of Vienna (Faculty of Social Sciences)
Start: 2023

This dissertation project is part of the Research Initiative “Analyzing Educational Trajectories

In the Austrian education system, young people who reach the end of lower secondary education are tracked to pursue either general or one of several types of vocational education, including fully school-based options and apprenticeships. This complex transition may be particularly challenging to navigate for youth with a first- or second-generation immigrant background whose parents often did not go through the Austrian education system themselves. My dissertation contributes to the existing literature by developing a better understanding of how and why transition patterns vary within the heterogeneous group of immigrant youth and depending on the context in which educational transitions are made.

The research design integrates quantitative and qualitative methods. The quantitative analysis is based on a longitudinal administrative dataset that covers the educational trajectories of a full cohort of students in the Austrian education system. These data allow for a fine-grained analysis of differences between immigrant groups and educational tracks while paying attention to contextual factors at school and district level. A longitudinal approach is applied to analyse immigrant youth’s pathways, dropout, and completion rates beyond the point of entry into upper secondary education. The subsequent qualitative study develops a better understanding of specific mechanisms discovered in the quantitative analysis. Problem-centred interviews are conducted and analysed using a method of thematic analysis to gain insights into immigrant youth’s own perspectives on their educational transition and the decision to pursue different educational options.