‘Higher than Einstein’

‘Higher than Einstein’: constructions of going to university among working class non-participants

Despite a vast increase in numbers in higher education, the lower socio-economic groups continue to be under-represented. Many reasons have been put forward for this; they include institutional and financial factors; low academic achievement and aspirations; lack of knowledge of HE; and perceptions of universities as élitist.

While a number of studies have identified knowledge and perceptions of HE as factors that may deter working class groups from aspiring to go to university, there has been limited investigation of the views of those who do not enter HE. This study focuses on constructions of going to university among young working class non-participants. Drawing on data collected in focus groups, it analyses the discourses used in talking about entry qualifications, financial arrangements, studying at university and students. It is suggested that these young working class people are to some extent aware of the hierarchy of HE entry routes and institutions, and that they believe that the openings most easily accessible to them constitute a second rate form of HE.

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