Widening participation in higher education: Capital that counts
At International Classification Conference, Bourdieu and Geometric Data Analysis Symposium, United Kingdom.
11 - 15 Jul 2011.
The under-representation in higher education of those from less privileged social backgrounds is an enduring problem in the UK. While on an individual basis there are examples of productive participation, the pattern of collective trajectories of this group differs sharply from that of traditional entrants (Reay, 2006). Predictably, the onus falls on students to adapt to the established practices of the field which remain very much oriented towards its traditional white middle-class population and effectively resists inclusivity (Layer, 2002; Read et al., 2003; Burke, 2005), regardless of governmental policy objectives.
Analysis of qualitative data emerging from a three-year longitudinal case study exploring the educational experiences of students with non-traditional academic backgrounds studying in one of the UK’s research-intensive universities was underpinned by Bourdieu’s theory of practice. The findings highlight the role of academic, linguistic, social and practice-oriented capital in developing a feel for and learning to play ‘the game’ in this sub-field of higher education and the positional tendencies and trajectories of the study’s thirteen volunteer participants. This paper will outline the nature and illustrate to role played by these key forms of capital in the ‘affinities, convergences and divergences’ (Grenfell, 2007 p.137) experienced by participants.
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