A Massive University or a University for the Masses? Continuity and Change in Higher Education in Spain and England

Delia Langa Rosado
Miriam Elizabeth David
Publicado en: Journal of Education Policy. Volumen 21, Nº 3
Año de publicación: 2006
Páginas: 343-365

This paper discusses whether the massification of higher education (HE) in the majority of developed countries over the last few decades has led to changes in the form of involvement in universities for the masses, or massive universities for the expanding middle classes. Situating our argument with the evidence of massive expansion of HE in England and Spain, and using Bourdieu’s theoretical framework, we compare two studies that looked at whether these changes led to a revised structuring of educational opportunities by social class and to universities accessible to the masses or merely massive universities. The English study considered the choices, and the Spanish study, the experiences of students and how they felt about being students. Our conclusions stress the relation between the social construction of the category ‘youth’ or young people in relation to HE, and the different structures of economic rights and duties of different social classes. While upper and middle class male and female students live their university lives with a clear feeling of entitlement, lower middle class and working class students need to justify their economic dependence on the family and so their university status. Developing concepts used in the English study for ethnic minority students we distinguish an ‘embedded’ style, that is a taken for granted perspective, from a ‘contingent’ style or one where students need to justify their choices of being students. These lead to different degrees of legitimacy of higher educational investments corresponding to different ‘familial habituses’


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