Living Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of International Higher Education Systems and Institutions

pp 1-4

Date: Latest Version

Cultural Capital, Social Class, and Higher Education

Over recent decades, the number of young people benefitting from higher education has increased considerably as the sector has expanded and “massified.” However, despite this shift, there remain – in many countries across the world – significant differences by social class in access to higher education. For example, of younger adults (i.e., those under 35), OECD data show that 23 % of those whose parents did not attain upper secondary education attained tertiary education themselves, compared with 65 % of their counterparts whose parents had also attained tertiary education (OECD 2015). Furthermore, students from more advantaged backgrounds are also more likely than their less advantaged peers to gain access to the most prestigious institutions (Boliver 2013). Moreover, differences, by social class, have been widely documented in relation to students’ experiences of higher education and their transitions from higher education into employment.

In explaining these inequalities, which have ...

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