22 SES 16 B, Capability and Habitus: Critical perspectives on widening participation, social mobility and student persistence within global higher education settings
Both internationally and within European educational policy, widening participation in higher education (HE) is regarded as a key driver of social mobility, economic growth and democratic stability (Bologna Process and European Higher Education Area 2015). This focus is determined by inequity in university access and student segregation by social background and gender (OECD 2016). Yet HE participation is not simply about getting underrepresented groups of students to attend universities but equally it is about retaining them once they arrive (Eurostat 2016, Quinn 2013). Key to such retention is the need to transform the somewhat elitist fields of higher education into fields in which students do not feel like cultural outsiders. Globally, the retention of students from diverse backgrounds remains a challenge for the HE sector, for example both the European Union and Australia experience relatively high dropout rates among non-traditional students which in turn poses challenges for socio- and education policy (European Commission 2014; European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice 2015, HEFCE 2017).
This symposium brings together international perspectives (Australia, UK and Europe) on the nature of university students’ experiences across university contexts by applying the theories of Bourdieu and Sen to the field of higher education. Each presenters will refer to comprehensive qualitative research and will offer a detailed discussion of individual case studies in order to deeply explore various HE learning places and spaces.
The following questions will be discussed in the symposium:
In reference to habitus (Bourdieu 1997) and capabilities (Sen 1999), what are the dispositions that students reflect upon as being necessary to succeed within the field of higher education? What types of field conditions support this educational participation and what hinders this involvement? Furthermore, the symposium will also present critical analyses of the individual costs and benefits of educational upward-mobility within unequal societies. Finally, the presentations will reflect upon possible preventive measures that could strengthen the resilience of both underrepresented groups as well as the field of higher education itself in order to reduce drop-out-rates resulting from habitus conflicts.
The symposium will start with a paper on a comprehensive research with older first-in-family students at Australian universities. Drawing upon the complementary lenses of Bourdieu and Sen, the paper provides insights into how this group both enact success in this environment and at the same time manage the competing demands of home and university. The presenter will illustrate how this theoretical framework enables a strengths-based understanding of how older students successfully manage the process of transition into university. Based on rich empirical data the presenter “unpacks” the interactions that occur between students’ existing capitals and capabilities in relation to their transition into the university environment.
The second paper scrutinises the process of social mobility through the lens of Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus and field. This presentation will focus on the dispositions of educational successful working-class habitus and illuminates conditions within the field of higher education, and aspects of the field that enable or work against successful transition. The presenter will show case studies of working class young people in order to analyse the extent to which working class habitus can adjust successfully to the field of higher education. The findings reveal that there is no seamless process of transition.
The last contribution rounds up the symposium by reflecting on how students can learn to understand their own biographies and obtain new resources for their university career through an ethnographic approach. The discussion following this paper will examine whether teaching socio-analysis could offer a way to assist persistence behaviours amongst underrepresented students and outlines the changes in the field of higher education required to facilitate such an approach.
Bologna Process & European Higher Education Area (2015): Report of the 2012-2015 bfug working group on the social dimension and lifelong learning to the bfug. https://media.ehea.info/file/2015_Yerevan/71/3/Report_of_the_2012-2015_BFUG_WG_on_the_Social_Dimension_and_Lifelong_Learning_to_the_BFUG_613713.pdf. Bourdieu, P. (1997): The Forms of Capital. In Halsey, Lauder, Brown & Wells (Eds.), Education, Culture and Economy. London: Oxford. European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice (2015): The European higher education area in 2015. Bologna process implementation report. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. European Commission (2014): Education and Training Monitor 2014. European Union. Eurostat (2016): Smarter, greener, more inclusive? Indicators to support the Europe 2020 Strategy. Statistical books. http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/documents/3217494/7566774/KS-EZ-16-001-EN-N.pdf/ac04885c-cfff-4f9c-9f30-c9337ba929aa. HEFCE (2017). Briefing: Non-continuation rates: trends and profiles. http://www.hefce.ac.uk/analysis/ncr/. OECD (2016): Education at a Glance 2016: OECD Indicators. Paris: OECD Publishing. Quinn, J. (2013): Drop-Out and Completion in Higher Education in Europe. among students from under-represented groups. Ed. of NESER network of experts. European Commission DG Education and Culture. Sen, A. (1999): Development as Freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Search for keywords and phrases in "Text Search"
- Restrict in which part of the abstracts to search in "Where to search"
- Search for authors and in the respective field.
- For planning your conference attendance you may want to use the conference app, which will be issued some weeks before the conference
- If you are a session chair, best look up your chairing duties in the conference system (Conftool) or the app.