22 SES 12 B, Theoretical Perspectives on Access to Higher Education: Contrasting insights from Bourdieu, Archer, Simon and Kahneman
Individuals benefit when they pursue a programme of higher education, as do the societies in which they live (Cunningham, 2006). It is thus a cause for concern that variation remains present in tertiary attainment levels across Europe. Koucký and Bartušek (2013) demonstrated that attainment levels are considerably higher in North-Western Europe as opposed to South-Western Europe and Eastern Europe. This has consequences for cohesion within the European Union, exacerbated as the situation is by differences in the financial stability of these regions. It remains the case, though, that policy around widening access to higher education has long been dominated by research and practice that focuses on removing barriers to participation. New theoretical resources must be engaged to address this situation, given the difficulties encountered by policy over many decades in ensuring equity in levels of participation. In particular, Archer (2000) has developed account of the interplay between social structure and human agency. This framework seeks to account for the way in which agents use their personal powers to act ‘so rather than otherwise’ under given structural influences. This paper presents an Archerian analysis of student access and engagement in higher education based on a series of studies by the author (Kahn, 2009, 2014, 2017). The theoretical account draws attention to the ways in which different modes of reflexivity outlined by Archer (2003) influence the concerns, projects and practices of individuals, linking also to the social relations that they maintain. Gaining access to higher education and participation in it both involve individuals in prioritising appropriate concerns, and in taking responsibility for progressing these concerns through projects and stable practices. If the individual’s modus vivendi, or way of life, is to accommodate a place for learning, then reflexivity represents a central explanatory feature. Furthermore, this framework allows scope to address the role that cultural, ethnic and religious commitments play in shaping the reflexivity that affects the access and participation in higher education. Such commitments are integral to differences between regions within Europe, moving the debate beyond the dominant focus in policy making on economic considerations. Taylor (1989) argued that an instrumental mode of life tends to dissolve the intermediate social structures that are a feature of culture, religion and ethnicity. The study offers a way forward to develop higher education in ways that align with notions of human flourishing grounded in culture, ethnicity and religion.
Archer, M. S. (2000). Being human: The problem of agency. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Cunningham, A. (2006). The broader societal benefits of higher education. Washington, DC: Institute for Higher Education Policy. Kahn, P. E. (2009). On establishing a modus vivendi: the exercise of agency in decisions to participate or not participate in higher education. London Review of Education, 7(3), 261–270. Kahn, P. E. (2014). Theorising student engagement in higher education. British Educational Research Journal, 40(6), 1005–1018. Kahn, P. E. (2017). Reflexivity and agency: critical realist and Archerian analyses of access and participation. In A. Mountford-Zimdars & N. Harrison (Eds.), Access to higher education: Theoretical perspectives and contemporary challenges (pp. 128–141). Routledge. Kouckỳ, J., & Bartušek, A. (2013). Access to a degree in Europe. Prague: Charles University in Prague. Retrieved from http://www.strediskovzdelavacipolitiky.info/ Taylor, C. (1989). Sources of the self: the making of the modern identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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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