22 SES 13 A, Barriers and Policies for Access to Higher Education In Belgium, England and France
The presentations of this symposium will examine main barriers and policies for access to higher education in three European countries from a theoretically informed, empirically based and comparative oriented perspective.
One of the main questions that the presentations will address concerns the different barriers faced by male and female students from working-class and ethnic minority backgrounds in projecting themselves into higher education and in applying to and getting accepted into higher education institutions, especially selective ones. Using a framework derived from the work on Pierre Bourdieu (1984, 1996), several presentations will pay special attention to the role of different types of cultural capital: institutionalized (students’ credentials, grades, educational trajectories and profiles), embodied (students’ habituses, ways of speaking, and manners) and “encoded” (students’ and their parents’ knowledge about institutional procedures and expectations and capacity to “decode” the messages that they explicitly or tacitly address to potential clients) (Lareau & McCrory Calarco, 2011).
Different and complementary perspectives will be adopted to study these dimensions. Draelants’ presentation will analyze the nature of the cultural capital that is presently rewarded by higher education systems and compare it to the cultural capital studied by Bourdieu and Passeron (1977) Van Campenhoudt’s and Zimdars’ presentations will adopt a more empirical perspective. The first one will focus on students’ choices and transitions from secondary to higher education, while the second will examine the process of application and selection of applicants at an elite institution. Both presentations will study the influence of students’ academic profiles (institutionalized cultural capital) and social background (embodied cultural capital).
The second main question that the presentations will examine concerns the role of different types of widening participation policies and schemes. They will examine how these policies and schemes combine manifest functions (to reduce barriers to access to higher education) and latent functions (the maintenance of the legitimacy of existing institutional hierarchies and/or the repositioning of the institutions involved in national and international markets of higher education). The concrete content and form or “scripts” of these policies will also be examined by taking into account their historical missions and long-lasting organizational structure, but also pressures from their political, scientific and institutional environment (Karabel 1984)
While Zimdars’ presentation will focus to some extent on the impact of selection procedures, Allouch’s presentation will examine the “scripts” of widening participation schemes developed by elite higher education institutions in England and France and focus both on the influence of different types of scientific and managerial literature on official discourse and on that of internal institutional arrangements in the way these schemes are effectively implemented (Karen 1990). Agnès van Zanten et al. will focus on a specific institutional-market device (Callon et al. 2007), open door events, and examine how institutional discourses and activities at these events combine the delivery of objective generic information with subjective impressions and personalized advice to potential students and parents that attend these events. Both presentations will also examine the possible or effective impact of these schemes on reducing cultural barriers to access to higher education.
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