Optimal cultural distance: a conceptual model of greater and lesser likelihood of participation in higher education by potential entrants from under-represented socio-economic groups

Matheson, C. (2006). Optimal cultural distance: a conceptual model of greater and lesser likelihood of participation in higher education by potential entrants from under-represented socio-economic groups. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)

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Abstract

This research investigated processes associated with greater and lesser likelihood of participation in higher education. The sample, of whom 89% were from underrepresented socio-economic groups, counted eight focus groups with a total of 78 participants and 26 individual interviews. The interaction of assumptions (drivers and barriers, constructions of students and of higher education and public discourses) and life history factors (initial education and familial influences) was examined to formulate a conceptual model of greater and lesser likelihood of participation in higher education. This conceptual model was derived from a literature-based, preliminary conceptual model that was adjusted to fit the key findings. The model is based on the idea of optimal cultural distance or the point at which higher education becomes for oneself rather than not for oneself. It takes into account the factors that lessen cultural distance and internalised barriers and hence increase the likelihood of reaching the point of optimal cultural distance. The model also takes into account the extent to which entering higher education is a decision or a non-decision and the extent to which decisions and non-decisions are made within practical or discursive consciousness. The conceptual model of greater and lesser likelihood of participation by potential entrants from under-represented socio-economic groups goes beyond contrasting
polarised and social-class based educational trajectories. It offers important insights into personal constructions of higher education and will inform policy and practice in the current climate of higher education today.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: School of Social Sciences > Department of Sociology
URI: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/8572

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