Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Accessing Oxbridge : a capability assessment of the widening participation agenda
Author: Watts, Michael F.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2686 7374
Awarding Body: University of East Anglia
Current Institution: University of East Anglia
Date of Award: 2009
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
This thesis examines the enduring issue of widening participation at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge (commonly elided as Oxbridge) and considers: the real opportunities students from non-traditional backgrounds have to consider, apply to and progress to Oxbridge; and what enhances and inhibits those opportunities. The thesis draws on two research projects. The first specifically addresses these issues. The second, and more recent, addressed them as part of its remit to consider widening participation and the pedagogies of higher education at Cambridge. Both studies made use of life history research and the thesis incorporates the life histories of six of the participating students. Analysis of the data makes use of the capability approach, developed by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum, which is concerned with the substantive freedoms - that is, the capabilities -people have to choose and lead lives they value and have reason to value. The capability approach de-emphasises the importance of commodities in well-being assessments but it has been criticised for failing to pay proper attention to the social structures which influence the relative value of educational commodities and the consequent freedom individuals have to make use of them. Bourdieu's sociology of education is employed to address this issue of social discipline. The data are analysed using his concept of capital - specifically academic, cultural and symbolic capital - and the findings are then discussed in relation to the preference deformation that inhibits the progression of students from non-traditional backgrounds to Oxbridge and then the enhancement of their capabilities. The capability focus on opportunity presents an even bleaker assessment than the Bourdieusian focus on outcome: not only do proportionately fewer students from the state-maintained sector progress to Oxbridge, the opportunity gap is disproportionately greater when compared with their peers from the independent sector. Nevertheless, successful interventions can enhance the freedoms of individual widening participation students to take part in the life of the Oxbridge community.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available