22 SES 01 A, (In)Equalities in Acess
Education has been an essential route to social mobility and advancement of equality of Finnish society. Historically, this target has been realized by expanding educational opportunities, first at lower level of education system, and then at higher levels. The last phase of the expansion of Finnish education is the growth of HE: the number of undergraduate students has increased substantially over the past few decades. Nowadays there are about 150 000 master students in Finnish universities. The number of post-graduate degrees has grown significantly, too. During the last twenty years the amount of doctoral students has tripled, and today there are about 19 000 doctoral students in Finnish universities.
In terms of Trow (1974; 2006), there has been massification of HE since the 1970’s in Finland as well in whole Europe. The opportunities for access in HE have undoubtedly been equalized. Internationally taken the Finnish university system can be described quite homogeneous and non-elitist (see e.g. Ball et al. 2002; Wakeling 2005; 2009). Nevertheless, Finnish university is yet socially selective: student’s social background is still clearly associated with admission to studies (Nori 2011). Hence, higher education is still socially heritable in Finland (Kivinen & Rinne 1995; Nevala 1999; Kivinen, Ahola & Hedman 2001).
Massification of lower levels of education is often followed by segregation of higher levels of education. As the master’s degree becomes more common, dissociation struggle proceeds to academic postgraduate degrees. Although the education is proved to be inherited, it can be assumed that doctoral students are not significantly different from universities’ master students. Turner’s (1960) “sponsorship mobility model” refers to the socialization of lower class university student to the lifestyle of upper class university student. The lower class student, who has been admitted to university, will adapt as a part of the academic community, in which case the effect of family background would vanish. (Institutional habitus refers to similar phenomenon, e.g. Wakeling 2005; Smyth & Banks 2012.) However, there are studies suggesting that social background still affects in selection processes at the tertiary level. E.g. Wakeling (2005; 2009) has shown that in UK the highest social groups applied from bachelor level to master level three times more likely compared to lower social groups. Mullen et al. (2003) (USA) indicated that parents’ education level was clearly related, although indirectly, to entering into doctoral studies after college and this relationship was stronger than in lower levels of HE programs.
Previous research indicate that the selection based on socioeconomic differences of the students’ social background is connected to hierarchies of academic field: differences between the institutions, disciplines and study programs (Nori 2011; Kivinen & Rinne 1995; Nevala 1999; Kivinen, Ahola & Hedman 2001). Current HE policy encourages universities to this through competition and profiling (Rinne et al. 2014). The most prestigious fields, which status has already been established, are attracting the well-off students.
In our presentation, we’ll compare the Finnish master students’ and doctoral students’ social backgrounds in order to create an overall picture of Finnish University as a selective institution. Our questions are: What kind of life-situations and backgrounds do the Finnish master and doctoral students come from? What kind of differences can be found between them? How does the selection process works when proceeding from graduate level to postgraduate level? What kind of segmentations and hierarchies it can be found in the field of master and doctoral studies, and do they differ from each other? What does this tell about the equality of the educational opportunities of contemporary Finnish academia? Is the “big story” of equal and open Finnish education system still true in the field of HE?
Ball, S.T., Davies, J., David, M. & Reay, D. 2002. ‘Classification’ and ‘Judgement’: social class and the ‘cognitive structures’ of choice of Higher Education. British Journal of sociology of Education, 23 (19), 51¬–72. Kivinen, O, Ahola, S. & Hedman, J. 2001. Expanding Education and Improving Odds. Participation in Higher Education in Finland in the 1980s and 1990s. Acta Sociologica 44 (2), 171–181. Kivinen, O. & Rinne, R. 1995. Korkeakoulutuksen kastijako. [Caste division of higher education] Janus 3 (2), 97–116. Mullen, A.L., Goyette, K.A. & Soares, J.A. 2003. Who Goes to Graduate School? Social and Academic Correlates of Educational Continuation After College. Sociology of Education 2003, Vol. 76 (April), 143–169. Nevala, A. 1999. Korkeakoulutuksen kasvu, lohkoutuminen ja eriarvoisuus Suomessa. [Growth, segmentation and inequality of higher education in Finland] Helsinki: Suomen Historiallinen Seura. Nori, H. 2011. Keille yliopiston portit avautuvat? Tutkimus suomalaisiin yliopistoihin ja eri tieteenaloille valikoitumisesta 2000-luvun alussa. Turun yliopiston julkaisuja C:309. [For whom will the university gates open? A study of the selection for admission to Finnish universities and fields of study in the beginning of the 21st century.] Rinne, R., Jauhiainen, A. & Kankaanpää, J. 2014. Surviving in the ruins of the university? - Lost autonomy and collapsed dreams in the Finnish transition of university policies. Nordic Studies in Education, Vol. 34, pp. 213–232. Smyth, E. & Banks, J. 2012. There was never really any question of anything else': young people's agency, institutional habitus and the transition to higher education, British Journal of Sociology of Education, 33:2, 263–28, DOI: 10.1080/01425692.2012.632867. Trow, M. 1974. Problems in the Transition from Elite to Mass Higher Education. In Policies for Higher Education: Conference on Future Structures of Post Secondary Education, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Paris. Trow, M. 2006. Reflections on the Transition from Elite to Mass Universal Access: Forms and Phases of Higher Education in Modern Societes since WW II. In: Forest, J.F., Altbach, P.G. (eds.) 2006. International Handbook of Higher Education, 243–280. Springer International Handbooks of Education, 18. Dordrecht: Springer. Turner, R.H. 1960. Sponsored and contest mobility and the school system. American Sociological review, 25 (6), 855–867. Wakeling, P. 2005. La noblesse d’etat anglaise? Social class and progression to postgraduate study. British Journal of Sociology of Education, Vol. 26, No. 4, September 2005, 505–522.
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