Educational Strategies of Socioeconomically Disadvantaged Students in England: Locating a Means of Broadening the Higher Education Choice and Decision-Making Landscape

Monday, 16 July 2018: 11:10
Oral Presentation
Zoe BAKER, The University of Sheffield, United Kingdom
In presenting data from a longitudinal narrative inquiry exploring the Higher Education decision-making and choices of English Further Education students over a two year period, I show the ways which socioeconomically disadvantaged young people construct their own capital to assist them in this process. Existing literature that has explored HE decision-making and choice amongst socioeconomically underrepresented groups have often used Bourdieu’s notions of habitus, field and capital as a conceptual lens, demonstrating how unequal access to resources leads to the perpetuation of inequalities (Ball et al., 2002; Reay et al., 2005). Yet, by considering the role of agent’s reflexivity (Archer, 2003, 2007, 2012) alongside the forms of capital (Bourdieu, 1986), the diverse and strategic ways that participants made their HE decisions and choices, without access to beneficial resources, were able to emerge. Participants showed instances of ‘bridging’ social capital (Putnam, 2000) to access ‘hot knowledge’ (Ball and Vincent, 1998), and the mobilisation of experiences into valuable capital during the HE application process (Bathmaker et al., 2013; Shuker, 2014). Moreover, students strategically used national and HE-delivered widening participation schemes and initiatives to overcome constraints arising from limited access to economic capital, and lower levels of prior educational attainment (cultural capital in its institutionalized state). In adopting such strategic approaches in their HE choices and decision-making, some participants were able to successfully broaden their landscapes of choice.