The experience of working-class students in a new dual-sector university: an extension of extant structural inequalities or transformative opportunities

Rawlinson, Diane (2017) The experience of working-class students in a new dual-sector university: an extension of extant structural inequalities or transformative opportunities. Ed.D thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This study investigates the experiences of first-in-family participants in a dual-sector university in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. In the context of the continuing debate around inequality in participation rates in higher education in Scotland and on-going concern with the attainment gap between working and middle-classes, I ask whether a dual-sector university could be perceived as being more relevant to the lives of non-traditional learners and provide an experience less alienating than a traditional university. I ask whether this dual sector environment can provide access to a valued higher education experience without causing the same sense of disjuncture and discomfort reported by many studies of working-class students’ experience in the middle-class world of higher education (Reay at al. 2009b, Keane 2011, He Li 2013, Lee and Kramer 2013, He Li 2015).
The study was designed within an interpretivist paradigm, acknowledging the role of participant and researcher in co-creating knowledge and understanding. Using semi-structured interviews, towards the end of their first year, the experience of nine under-graduate students was explored. The methodological design and data analysis were informed by Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus, capital and field. These concepts were employed as a framework within which the positioning of the students in relation to higher education and their interaction with the University could be considered.
The data evidenced an alignment between the habitus of the students and that of the University that eased their transition to higher education and sustained a motivational focus on the students’ future career choice. Furthermore, the University prompted some students to extend their learning beyond the institution into vocational settings providing opportunities to begin to develop a professional identity from an early stage.
While the University provided local access to higher education to many who would otherwise have no opportunity to participate, the modest ambitions of the students and evidence of the continued pull of their primary habitus, suggested that the University offered opportunities for development and attainment that stopped short of transformation.

Item Type: Thesis (Ed.D)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Bourdieu, habitus, social class, widening access, dual-sector, Scotland.
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Murphy, Dr. Mark
Date of Award: 2017
Depositing User: Diane Rawlinson
Unique ID: glathesis:2017-8508
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 31 Oct 2017 13:37
Last Modified: 08 Nov 2017 09:22

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