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Jackie goes home, young working-class women: Higher Education, employment and social (re)alignment

Bentley, Laura

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Laura Bentley


This thesis builds on and contributes to work in the field of sociology of education and employment. It provides an extension to a research agenda which has sought to examine how young people’s transitions from ‘undergraduate’ to ‘graduate’ are ‘classed’ processes, an interest of some academics over the previous twenty-five years (Friedman and Laurison, 2019; Ingram and Allen, 2018; Bathmaker et al., 2016; Burke, 2016a; Purcell et al., 2012; Tomlinson, 2007; Brown and Hesketh, 2004; Brown and Scase, 1994). My extension and claim to originality are that until now little work has considered how young working-class women experience such a transition as a classed and gendered process.

When analysing the narratives of fifteen young working-class women, I employed a Bourdieusian theoretical framework. Through this qualitative study, I found that most of the working-class women’s aspirations are borne out of their ‘experiential capital’ (Bradley and Ingram, 2012). Their graduate identity construction practices and the characteristics of their transitions out of higher education were directly linked to the different quantity and composition of capital within their remit and the (mis)recognition of this within various fields. Further, I found that the ways in which they experienced and negotiated their social mobility routes were again based on their capital and were differentiated by the ‘type’ of university through which they obtained their degrees. Moreover, most of those who experienced upward social mobility struggled to reconcile their cleft habituses (Bourdieu, 2007; 2000).

Overall, this work found that experiencing and graduating from university is a gendered, as well as classed, process. I have drawn on Bourdieu’s conceptual work to make visible the invisible structures and routes through which social order and the reproduction of privilege are continually (re)established in different social fields. This work has implications for policy and practice at governmental level and in universities. It also makes recommendations for the academic community by setting a research agenda which advocates for further intra-class comparative research and work which promotes a social justice, not social mobility agenda.


Bentley, L. Jackie goes home, young working-class women: Higher Education, employment and social (re)alignment. (Thesis). University of the West of England. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Sep 26, 2019
Publicly Available Date Apr 3, 2020
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