22 SES 12 B, Theoretical Perspectives on Access to Higher Education: Contrasting insights from Bourdieu, Archer, Simon and Kahneman
Who has the opportunity to attend higher education and who exercises that opportunity continue to be vital questions across the world, both in developed and developing nations. Access to higher education is a key site of inequality, with many governments and social actors seeking to broaden the profile of those entering the sector and to ensure that there is also fair access to elite universities. The trends of globalisation and marketisation add to both competition and complexity within the field.
This symposium will provide a theoretical exploration of access to higher education, drawing on four key internationally-renowned thinkers from diverse cultural and disciplinary traditions; one paper will engage with two theorists. It will aim to demonstrate how different theoretical lenses can provide new insight on the issue of access to higher education and explore how those lenses might offer opportunities for new syntheses.
- Burke’s paper will draw on the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, with a particular focus on his ‘thinking tools’ of capital, habitus and field. These will be used to explore the role that education has in social reproduction and how prospective students are restricted by structural barriers to their educational trajectories. The paper will use the current situation in Northern Ireland to demonstrate how these constraints shape the options available with respect to gender, class and ethnicity.
- Kahn’s paper will explore the contribution of British sociologist Margaret Archer. It will focus on her related concepts of reflexivity and the ‘internal conversation’ to explore the interplay between societal structure and individual agency. In particular, it will examine how people prioritise certain life projects and see those through to fruition through their everyday practices – a modus vivendi. Higher education is just such a project for prospective students, whereby certain forms of reflexivity are able to promote participation in spite of cultural and other constraints.
- Harrison’s paper will apply the concepts of ‘boundary rationality’ from American psychologist Herbert Simon and ‘prospect theory’ from Israeli/American psychologist Daniel Kahneman. While their work has been widely used in economics to examine decision-making under conditions of risk and uncertainty, it has rarely been applied to educational choices. The paper will explore how complexity limits prospective students’ ability to make ‘rational’ decisions and how this impacts on their choices about whether and how to access higher education.
The three papers provide an interesting contrast as they span a wide theoretical space stretching between Bourdieu’s structuralism and Simon/Kahneman’s focus on agentic decision-making, with Archer’s social realism providing a counterpoint between the two. While the space may be wide, the topic of access to higher education is relevant to all three and the symposium will provide an opportunity to explore both differences and communalities.
Mountford-Zimdars and Harrison (eds) Access to Higher Education: Theoretical perspectives and contemporary challenges. Routledge.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
Network 6. Open Learning: Media, Environments and Cultures
Network 7. Social Justice and Intercultural Education
Network 8. Research on Health Education
Network 9. Assessment, Evaluation, Testing and Measurement
Network 10. Teacher Education Research
Network 11. Educational Effectiveness and Quality Assurance
Network 12. LISnet - Library and Information Science Network
Network 13. Philosophy of Education
Network 14. Communities, Families and Schooling in Educational Research
Network 15. Research Partnerships in Education
Network 16. ICT in Education and Training
Network 17. Histories of Education
Network 18. Research in Sport Pedagogy
Network 19. Ethnography
Network 20. Research in Innovative Intercultural Learning Environments
Network 22. Research in Higher Education
Network 23. Policy Studies and Politics of Education
Network 24. Mathematics Education Research
Network 25. Research on Children's Rights in Education
Network 26. Educational Leadership
Network 27. Didactics – Learning and Teaching
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