The Routledgefalmer Reader in Higher Education

By Malcolm Tight | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1

'CLASSIFICATION' AND 'JUDGEMENT'

Social class and the 'cognitive structures' of choice in higher education
Stephen Ball, Jackie Davies, Miriam David and Diane ReayBritish Journal of Sociology of Education, 23, 1, 51−72, 2002
EDITOR'S INTRODUCTION
In this article, Stephen Ball and his co-authors report on the analysis of data collected as part of a research project funded by the UK's Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). Unusually, for this volume, the article does not come from a specialist higher education journal, but from the British Journal of Sociology of Education, and that disciplinary base is evident in the approach and framework adopted.The focus of the authors is on how prospective students choose − assisted and influenced by their parents, friends and teachers − which higher education institutions to study at, and on the role of social class in such choices. For their theoretical framework, the authors refer to the work of the French sociologist Bourdieu, and, in particular, his concepts of 'classification' and 'judgement'.Within this framework, a number of themes are developed and stressed:
• the status differentiations evident between UK higher education institutions, and the perceptions of these held by prospective students and others;
• the continuing under-participation of those of working-class origin in higher education, and the influence of previous family experience on this;
• the relation between social class, school attended, school examination performance and participation in higher education, the kind of higher education institution attended, and the kind of course chosen; and
• the notion of the choice of which kind of higher education institution to attend as being a lifestyle choice.

A distinction is made between prospective higher education students who pursue 'normal' and 'choice' biographies. In the former case, prospective students from families with experience of higher education typically see university entry as the normal route to take on completion of school, so their decisions focus on which university and course to attend. In the latter case, prospective students from families with little or no experience of higher education will have to make a very conscious choice to do something different.

The article was categorised in the introductory chapter as adopting an interview-based methodology to researching the student experience. In total, 120 prospective students were

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