‘My dad studied here too’: social inequalities and educational (dis)advantage in a Croatian higher education setting

Doolan, Karin (2009) ‘My dad studied here too’: social inequalities and educational (dis)advantage in a Croatian higher education setting. PhD thesis, University of Cambridge, Faculty of Education.

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Higher education participation literature sends the message that there is social inequality in access to higher education and progress within it, i.e. that factors such as social class shape the chances of entering higher education, the choice of disciplinary orientation and course persistence. However, while there is general agreement in the field of sociology of education that social differences in educational pathways do not result solely from individual abilities, the sociological theorising of how such social differences are shaped is less consensual. This study contributes to the sociological debate by exploring how higher education choices are shaped for students from different social backgrounds in a Croatian higher education setting and how these students experience their first year of study and progress through it. The study’s data has resulted from a critical, multiple case study, mixed methods research design and includes: questionnaire data with responses from 642 first year undergraduate students at six case study faculties within the University of Zagreb ; interview data collected from 28 students at the same six faculties whose first year educational experiences and progress were more closely examined ; and statistical data including information for all Croatian students. The methodological relevance of the study derives from it being the first mixed methods study in Croatian higher education participation research and in providing the first qualitative data on the social aspects of student pathways in the Croatian higher education context. In addition, the study also contributes to overcoming the identified quantitativequalitative divide in international higher education participation research. Theoretically, the study has been inspired by Bourdieu’s approach to structure and agency as interrelated, his critical conceptual ‘toolbox’ for understanding practice and his methodological pluralism. With regard to this conceptual ‘toolbox’, the study has engaged with Bourdieu’s different types of capital, habitus and field in order to propose a relatively holistic approach to understanding social differences in higher education participation. His conceptual focus on the interrelatedness between habitus and field has provided this study with a sociologically relational account of student pathways rather than a focus on either their social, personal or institutional aspects. The study’s exploration and extension of Bourdieu’s concepts (e.g. capitals as acquired not just inherited, gradations of capital possession and gendered aspects of habitus) is a contribution to contemporary international debates on the usefulness and applicability of his framework for ‘noticing’ the ways in which social inequalities are educationally created and reinforced. The study has identified an interrelated web of influences as shaping student choices and experiences: inherited or acquired capitals (cultural, social, economic and emotional), gender, and fields of the past (secondary education field), present (HE field) and future (labour market). The analysis indicates that institutional practices educationally reinforce social (dis)advantage through their (mis)recognition of resources which are unevenly distributed among students, thus positioning those with inherited capitals at an educational advantage. In this study, ‘inheritors’ were identified as second generation students, who had attended a secondary grammar school, with the necessary financial resources, supportive parents and appropriate living and studying conditions. In the case of students with low initial capitals, examples of transformative educational practices were related primarily to the fields they interacted with, which acted as sources of capital influencing their practices. However, it was more often the case that fields reinforced existing capitals rather than provided new ones. A practical implication of identifying multiple influences shaping student choices and experiences is that a holistic approach is required to address such influences ; just focusing on economic capital or cultural capital reveals only part of the inequalities puzzle. It is suggested that for the ‘weakest to survive’ an amalgam of different practices needs to be put into place in order to trump their disadvantaged position. To this extent, the study lists examples of such inclusive practices as identified in the research. These practices also contribute to a more complex verbalizing of the Bologna process’ ‘social dimension’ in the Croatian HE context.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: Language: English.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Pristup visokom obrazovanju, obrazovna iskustva, društvene nejednakosti, Bourdieuova teorija prakse, mješovite metode istraživanja
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Depositing User: Karolina Vranješ
Date Deposited: 13 May 2015 08:37
Last Modified: 13 May 2015 08:37
URI: http://idiprints.knjiznica.idi.hr/id/eprint/315

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