Class Strategies in Higher Education: Reproduction of Elites and/or Professional Closure

Monday, 16 July 2018: 11:20
Oral Presentation
Maria Ligia BARBOSA, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Leonardo RODRIGUES, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The literature on educational stratification has shown that the differentiation of higher education diverts non-elite students away from first-tier majors (like Medicine, Law, or Engineering), and that the chances of college access and graduation are still strongly affected by the students’ social background and higher education institutional features. In a previous study we could show that the private colleges clearly reinforce the advantages of the students from the highest-income families in graduating in higher education. The medical courses illustrate this pattern beyond any doubt. On the other hand, the public sector consistently favors the graduation of students with more educated parents (with the notable exception of Education). Medicine and Law, which are traditional and prestigious professions in Brazil, remain niches of the elite. The completion of STEM majors is barely affected by family income or parents’ education. In the Brazilian case, where the educational system is an essential factor of social inequality, there seems to be at least two main strategies for controlling social opportunities. The first strategy, which was developed by the educated and relatively traditional elite, would use the public system of prestigious universities. The second one, promoted by more recently enriched social groups, would tend to value the private higher education system, with less prestigious but more easily accessible careers. These two strategies involve different values regarding education and distinct orientations towards the diverse academic degrees conferred by the Brazilian colleges. In this study, we propose a more qualitative and conceptual analysis of the evidences of these strategies, in order to be able to label them as reproductive or as forms of professional closure. The supposed strategies to be examined include: exams for professional licensing, system of access to medical residency, certification of jobs by professional councils, access to postgraduate courses.