'Classification' and 'Judgement': Social class and the 'cognitive structures' of choice of Higher Education

'Classification' and 'Judgement': Social class and the 'cognitive structures' of choice of Higher Education

Journal: British Journal of Sociology of Education
Year: 2002
Authors: Ball SJ , Davies J, David M & Reay D
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
DOI: 10.1080/01425690120102854
Link: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/01425690120102854?needAccess=true
The issue of social-class-related patterns of access to Higher Education (HE) has become a matter of public debate in the UK recently but is on the whole portrayed one-sidedly in terms of issues
of selection (elitism), and the social dimensions of choice are neglected. Here, drawing on an Economic and Social Research Council research study, choice of HE is examined using Bourdieu’s concepts of
‘classiŽcation’ and ‘judgement’. HE is viewed in terms of its internal status differentiations. Students’ positive and negative choices are addressed using qualitative and quantitative data, and the ‘accuracy’ of
status perceptions are also tested. It is argued that choices are infused with class and ethnic meanings and that choice-making plays a crucial role in the reproduction of divisions and hierarchies in HE, but
also that the very idea of choice assumes a kind of formal equality that obscures ‘the effects of real
inequality’. HE choices are embedded in different kinds of biographies and institutional habitus, and
different ‘opportunity structures’.
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