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Higher education, social class and the mobilisation of capitals: knowing and playing the game

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2013
<mark>Journal</mark>British Journal of Sociology of Education
Issue number5-06
Volume34
Number of pages21
Pages (from-to)723-743
Publication statusPublished
Early online date12/09/13
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Strategies employed by middle-class families to ensure successful educational outcomes for their children have long been the focus of theoretical and empirical analysis in the United Kingdom and beyond. In austerity England, the issue of middle-class social reproduction through higher education increases in saliency, and students’ awareness of how to ‘play the game’ of enhancing their chances to acquire a sought-after graduate position becomes increasingly important. Using data from a longitudinal study of working-class and middle-class undergraduates at Bristol’s two universities (the Paired Peers project), we employ Bourdieu’s conceptual tools to examine processes of capital mobilisation and acquisition by students to enhance future social positioning. We highlight middle-class advantage over privileged access to valued capitals, and argue that the emphasis on competition, both in terms of educational outcomes and the accrual of capital in the lives of working-class and middle-class students, compounds rather than alleviates social inequalities.