Centre de recherche interuniversitaire sur la formation et la profession enseignante (CRIFPE)

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Coles, C. W. (2020). Contrasting experiences of working class and middle class students at a Scottish selective university: looking to Bourdieu for perspective. Thèse de doctorat inédite, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, U.K.


Despite the massive expansion of UK higher education provision from the 1960’s onwards, concern remains about the under-representation of working class students at the selective universities. Debate continues about the causes of this under-representation and what ought to be done to remedy it. A wide variety of initiatives have been tried but the phenomenon persists; is it because selective universities unwittingly discriminate against working class students?

In the context of a Scottish selective university, this study took the views of both working class and middle class students reading for a professionally accredited degree and compared their experiences with those identified in previous published literature. Students interviewed for this study came from a specific degree programme that is traditionally more popular with middle class entrants.

Compared to previous studies, a generally improving picture of working class experience was found, and fewer obvious gaps between working class and middle class experience on application and attendance were identified. There seemed to be a coalescence of experience and a greater sense of camaraderie within the student cohort.

However, it is concluded that the initiatives designed to widen access remain isolated, poorly co-ordinated, generally unscrutinised, and underfunded. Unless more drastic approaches to socioeconomic under-representation in selective universities can be identified and implemented, progress towards equalities of opportunity, experience, and outcome is likely to remain slow and piecemeal.


Logos des universités associées au CRIFPE

Adresse civique

Université de Montréal
Faculté des Sciences de l'Éducation
90, avenue Vincent d'Indy
Pavillon Marie-Victorin – C-536
Outremont (Québec) H2V 2S9

Adresse postale

Université de Montréal
Faculté des Sciences de l'Éducation
CRIFPE – C-543
C.P. 6128, succursale Centre-ville
Montréal (Québec) H3C 3J7