Cooke, Sandra (2012)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.
This thesis explores students’ experiences in higher education in England in the early 21st century. It uses a longitudinal perspective, drawing upon data from semi structured interviews with undergraduates as they progressed from transition to graduation.
The thesis argues that students enrol at university with learner identities shaped by different educational and social backgrounds. Once at university, students move through a process of acclimatisation during which they build upon particular capacities that enable them to succeed in higher education. These capacities help students to build robust undergraduate identities which allow them to exercise agency in their learning. However, as they do so, they carry with them varying degrees of risk and have to negotiate the disjuncture between expectation and reality in their undergraduate experiences. An understanding of the impact of risk and disjuncture has important implications in the rapidly changing world of higher education and these, alongside concepts of field, habitus, capital, and academic and social integration, help to explain undergraduate experiences in the rapidly changing political economy of higher education.
Focusing on the particulars of individual experiences highlighted the significant investments individuals make in their studies and for whom the world of higher education can be an uncomfortable place.
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