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Degrees of Choice
Social Class, Race and Gender in Higher Education
"Degrees of Choice" provides a sophisticated account of the overlapping effects of social class, ethnicity and gender in the process of choosing which university to attend. The shift from an elite to a mass system has been accompanied by much political rhetoric about widening access, achievement-for-all and meritocratic equalisation.
Drawing on an award-winning British Economic and Social Research Council funded study,this book gives a full and different picture, drawing on qualitative and quantitative data to show how the welcome expansion of higher education has also deepened social stratification, generating new and different inequalities. While gender inequalities have reduced, those of social class remain and are now reinforced by racial inequalities in access. Employing perspectives from the sociology of education and particularly Bordieu’s work on distinction and judgement, the book links school (institutional habitus) and family (class habitus) with individual choice making in a socially informed dynamic.
The contradictions and tensions arising from attempts to expand student numbers rapidly are vividly brought alive through the narratives of prospective applications to higher education. Students are seen to confront vastly different degrees of choice that are powerfully shaped by their social class and race.
"This excellent book provides a rich and exciting set of theories and evidence which are a valuable addition to this under-researched field. It also provides a highly informed and complex framework for understanding choice in higher education, and the significance and power of ethnicity and racism in educational settings."- Ethnic and Racial Studies
"I readily identified with the life stories told here and would recommend Degrees of Choice to all involved or interested in going beyond government rhetoric to widen participation in HE."- Studies in the Education of Adults
"Reay, David and Ball have succeeded in producing a very neat readable book, which makes arguments that throw valid punches at our thinking and knowledge about mass higher education. The use of Bourdieu's thinking tools of habitus and field in ways that enable description, understanding and explanation of complex issues is of great value."- Educational Review
"This eloquently written and thoroughly researched book...should be essential reading, not only for all those in the field of widening participation and higher education (including government ministers and policy advisers), but also anyone with an interest in the persistence of class and other inequalities. I thoroughly recommend it."- Gender and Education