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Title: Aspirations re-examined : a capability approach to widening participation in higher education
Author: Hart, Caroline Francesca Sarojini
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2011
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This thesis draws on Amartya Sen’s capability approach to re-examine the complex and dynamic nature of young people’s aspirations, in relation to government strategies to widen participation in higher education in England. Key concepts from Pierre Bourdieu are synthesised with Sen’s work to create a theoretical framework which facilitates new insights into the way young people’s aspirations may be transformed into capabilities. A case study was undertaken involving 580 young people aged 17-19. The city of Sheffield was chosen due to its contrasting areas of participation in higher education. Students in post-16 education from four institutions took part in the study. Two of the institutions were based in an area of Sheffield that has high participation rates in higher education and two in an area with low participation. Methods included quantitative survey, individual and group interviews. The thesis makes an original contribution to knowledge by making new conceptual advances in understanding the nature of aspirations. Drawing on concepts from social choice theory, this culminated in developing a new typology of revealed, concealed, adapted and apparent aspirations. Secondly, the study identified new processes of support and hindrance experienced by young people as they strive to realise their aspirations. These processes are theorised using the notion of ‘conversion factors’ leading to re-examination of the way in which disadvantage is constructed within widening participation discourses. New insights were developed into the roles that educators and policy makers may play in both helping young people to develop their aspirations as well as enhancing their freedom to realise their aspirations. Thirdly, this study has generated new understandings of young people’s relationships to higher education and their decision-making pathways in this area. In particular, a new register of meaning and action is identified to help understand the different ways young people construct the possibility of their participation in higher education.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available