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Credentials, talent and cultural capital: a comparative study of educational elites in England and France

Brown, P., Power, S., Tholen, G. and Allouch, A. (2016). Credentials, talent and cultural capital: a comparative study of educational elites in England and France. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 37(2), pp. 191-211. doi: 10.1080/01425692.2014.920247


This article examines student accounts of credentials, talent and academic success, against a backdrop of the enduring liberal ideal of an education-based meritocracy. The article also examines Bourdieu’s account of academic qualifications as the dominant source of institutionalised cultural capital, and concludes that it does not adequately account for comparative differences in the social structure of competition and ideological shifts in class (re)production in different national contexts. This analysis is based on an empirical investigation of elite students at Oxford University and Sciences Po in Paris. We investigated how they understand the competition for a livelihood and whether they see themselves as more ‘talented’ than students from non-elite universities. This investigation revealed important similarities and differences between British and French students that have significant sociological implications for the (re)production and legitimation of educational and labour market inequalities.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2016 The Author(s). Published by Taylor & Francis.
Publisher Keywords: credential inflation, talent, cultural capital, elites, elite employability, positional competition, effortless achievement, class (re)production
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Departments: School of Arts & Social Sciences > Sociology
Date available in CRO: 06 Mar 2017 13:19
Date deposited: 6 March 2017
Date of acceptance: 29 April 2014
Date of first online publication: 17 February 2016
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution 3.0.

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