Widening the participation into higher education: examining Bourdieusian theory\ud in relation to HE in the UK

Article English OPEN
Burnell, Iona (2015)
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press

Bourdieu’s theories enable us to conceptualise and understand why some\ud people participate in higher education and some do not. Focussing on the\ud working class as the marginalised social group in HE, Bourdieu\ud demonstrated how education perpetuates inequality and lack of\ud opportunity. The theories or ‘thinking tools’ as he called them, provide an\ud explanation for why the working class do not participate in HE on the\ud same scale as the middle and upper classes. Habitus, for example,\ud enables us to understand that we have ‘a sense of one’s place which\ud leads one to exclude oneself from places from which one is excluded’\ud (Bourdieu 1984, 471). I examine the theories in the context of my own\ud research, and explore my participants’ experiences of HE using\ud Bourdieu’s theoretical framework. However, my research findings do not\ud support an uncritical application of Bourdieu’s theories; rather that one’s\ud habitus can change to accommodate new practices, and once that\ud change has occurred, it is socially reproduced. The findings of the\ud research are based on interviews with ten participants, all of whom are or\ud have been mature working class students in higher education.
  • References (5)

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