Graduate Education and Social Mobility: A Comparative Overview

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 10:45
Oral Presentation
Paul WAKELING, University of York, United Kingdom
In this paper, I set out to do three things. First, I introduce Posselt and Grodsky's (2017) summary of the state-of-the-art on theory and research about graduate education and social stratification in the USA. I extend their summary by comparing it to what is known in this field about other countries, with a principal focus on findings from Europe. Specifically, I identify some key areas where there appears to be international consistency in patterns of access to and outcomes from graduate education. I also draw out pertinent differences, including the structure of graduate studies and student funding arrangements. Second, I present a more detailed comparison of a single national case, by examining patterns of access to graduate education by social class background in the UK and their connection to subsequent outcomes (Wakeling and Laurison, 2017). This shows that social class inequalities in attainment of graduate degrees have strengthened across successive age cohorts. This tightening inequality has occurred alongside considerable expansion of access to undergraduate - and graduate - study. However subsequent occupational outcomes continue to be socially stratified, even among holders of graduate degrees. Finally, I make the case for the potential of a comparative case-study approach, inspired by the work of Shavit, Blossfeld and colleagues (1993, 2007), in the field of graduate education. Such an approach should extend our understanding of the institutional and cultural influences on national variations in educational inequality and social mobility patterns through the novel case of graduate education. Conversely, it will bring to bear further insights into graduate education and its connection to social stratification and mobility by drawing on theories from the 'persistent inequalities' tradition.