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You are reading: Avoiding the manufacture of ‘sameness’: first-in-family students, cultural capital and the higher education environment

Written by Dr Sarah O’ Shea, University of Wollongong

Published in Higher Education

16 Sept 2015


Drawing upon Bourdieu’s theories of social and cultural capital, a number of studies of the higher education environment have indicated that students who are first-in-family to come to university may lack the necessary capitals to enact success. To address this issue, university transition strategies often have the primary objective of ‘filling students up’ with legitimate forms of cultural capital required by the institution. However, this article argues that such an approach is fundamentally flawed, as students can be either framed as deficit or replete in capitals depending on how their particular background and capabilities are perceived. Drawing on interviews conducted with first-in-family students, this article explores how one cohort considered their movement into university and how they enacted success within this environment. Utilising Yosso’s Community Cultural Wealth framework, this article discusses how these individuals drew upon existing and established capital reserves in this transition to higher education.

Read the full article here

O’ Shea, S. (2015). Avoiding the manufacture of ‘sameness’: first-in-family students, cultural capital and the higher education environment. The International Journal of Higher Education Research, 70(330). 1-20. DOI: 10.1007/s10734-015-9938-y.