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Widening Participation in HE Project:


The social-cultural and learning experiences of working class students in higher education (2006 - 2008)

This project has now completed. Major outputs include:


Gill Crozier (University of Sunderland)
Diane Reay (University of Cambridge)


Project Summary

This research explored working class students' experiences of higher education, once at university, their impact on their learner and cultural identities, and the implications of these for their progress and retention. The research employed mixed methods across four institutions, located in three different geographical areas, comprising an elite, 'red brick' and post 1992 university and a college of Further Education , offering Foundation degrees.

We sought to compare the social and cultural experiences of working class students in different types of universities in order to identify any similarities and differences. This helped us to understand how they see themselves as learners and whether they see a need to operate strategically in order 'to stay in and get on'. We aimed to find out whether working class students feel the need to adapt and change their identities in order to survive and progress at university or whether they resist any pressures and expectations to do so. We intended to discern whether and if so how, this impacts or potentially impacts on their learning and ability to stay the course. We were also interested to learn whether these processes are gendered and 'raced'.

This addressed an area which was under-reseached and therefore made a vital contribution to knowledge that could have implications for both future quality of experience and outcomes and student retention.




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