Kate Hughes

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Universities in the developed world have engaged in many attempts to transform unequal social relations, inherited from the past, through restructuring their tertiary education systems. On the whole, this endeavour has been generated by national governments. Discourses about ‘diversity’ and ‘social inclusion’ have driven this policy drive, and they present as a moral imperative whilst obscuring the socio-cultural dynamics which generate both academic success and failure. Whilst all universities are required to embrace social inclusion rhetorically, their practices vary enormously. This paper examines the foundation of the arguments which employ both social and individual benefits of mass tertiary education, and discusses the impact of massification on universities themselves. It explores the ways in which low socio-economic status (LSES) students experience universities, and argues that a socio-cultural impasse has generated a strongly stratified tertiary sector where non-elite institutions cater for disproportionally high numbers of LSES students. Finally, the paper makes a judgement about the collective responsibility universities should have for increasing the participation of LSES students.

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Journal Article

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