Stratification in Higher Education and its relationship with social inequality: a comparative study of 11 European countries
The main goal of this report is to explore institutional stratification within higher education in a < Back
comparative perspective, and its relationship with social inequality. In the first part, the theoretical
framework is developed connecting theories on inequality in education and labour market, and
adapting them to the higher education context. In the second part, data from the REFLEX survey
on recent tertiary graduates in 11 European countries are used to assess whether social origin affects
the type of tertiary education attained. Consistently with the hypotheses, parental education strongly
affects the probability of graduation in a long programme, but not the transition to a PhD course.
In most countries, parental education is positively related to graduation in a top institution and a
prestigious field of study. The gross effect of parental education is reduced, but still significant, when
controlling for previous school achievement. At the end, it is shown that vertical and horizontal gross
inequalities are stronger in those countries with a higher proportion of tertiary graduates (a proxy for
competition among graduates in the labour market) and where the institutional differentiation is more
relevant for graduates’ occupational outcomes.