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‘Class-work’ in the elite institutions of higher education

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Arif Naveed.

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While the pupils from advantaged backgrounds are up to ten times more likely to access a ‘top’ university (UCAS, 2017) the conversation about the performances of class in elite higher education institutions is surprisingly absent. Only 6.2 per cent of the 2017 intake of undergraduate students admitted to Russell Group universities came from the most disadvantaged areas in the UK, with the University of Cambridge admitting only 5 per cent. This talk focuses on the day to day performances of class in universities which reproduce privilege and cement social inequities. Drawing on the narratives of working-class undergraduate students studying at an elite university in the South of England, the emotional and social challenges encountered by these young people are explored. The negotiation practices and narratives of ‘choice’, as well as the ways working-class students navigate symbolic violence and ‘classed’ codes of conduct are particularly illustrated. It also draws upon speaker’s examination of her assumed ‘upward socially mobile’ trajectory as a working-class woman, considering the consequences of her education path towards academia; the effects of being ‘socially haunted’ and the complicated emotional negotiations encountered while returning ‘home’. The discussion intends to foster an environment for experience sharing between students and academics at Cambridge with varied social backgrounds.

This talk is part of the ‘Class-work’ in the elite institutions of higher education series.

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