'The dream of social flying': social class, higher education choice and the paradox of widening participation

Byrom, Tina (2008) 'The dream of social flying': social class, higher education choice and the paradox of widening participation. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Widening Participation in UK universities is currently a key political concern. Whilst the under-representation of particular groups has been a feature of higher education for many years, participation for groups identified by gender, ethnicity and disability has seen some improvement. However, the participation of students from low social class groups remains an issue.

Whilst there are a number of intervention programmes that seek to increase the numbers of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who do go on to higher education, in this thesis I work closely with a group of non-traditional students who participated in a Sutton Trust Summer School.

In attempting to understand the complexities of social class participation in HE and the perceptions of an HE hierarchy, I draw heavily from Bourdieu's notions of habitus and field.

The findings from this study raise numerous issues for intervention programmes such as the Sutton Trust. In presenting the findings, I explore three arenas of influence: habitus influenced by home context; habitus influenced by institutions such as school and the Sutton Trust and also the idea of living with a ‘split’ habitus - a habitus in tension.

Throughout the findings sections, I draw from the experiences of the young people to argue that their ‘class’ based practices align more closely with those of the middle classes and that their decision to go to university was made early on in their educational journeys.

Their pursuit of higher education with a particular focus on the types of HE institutions they were willing to consider, presents an interesting issue for those working in the widening participation arena. The students in this study were already equipped with the ability, knowledge and desire to apply to an elite institution prior to their Sutton Trust experience. I describe this position in terms of a 'trajectory interruption' where the expected trajectory of an individual can be influenced by the numerous fields of which they are a part. I draw specifically from the notion of habitus to explain how their respective 'trajectory interruptions' occurred. The 'dream of social flying'(Bourdieu 1993: 2) places these students in particular positions within the educational field - positions that are conducive to any form of trajectory interruption.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Gates, P.
Thomson, P.L.
Subjects: L Education > LC Special aspects of education
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Education
Item ID: 11053
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 05 Jan 2010 13:55
Last Modified: 16 Oct 2017 16:12
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/11053

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