Experiences of Academics from a Working-Class Heritage: Ghosts of Childhood Habitus
This book is a twist on the current discourse around ‘inclusivity’ and ‘widening participation’. Higher education is welcoming students from diverse educational, social, and economic backgrounds, and yet it predominantly employs middle-class academics. Conceptually, there appears, on at least these grounds alone, to be a cultural and class mismatch. This work discusses empirical interviews with tenured academics from a working-class heritage employed in one UK university. Interviewees talk candidly about their childhood backgrounds, their school experiences, and what happened to them after leaving compulsory education. They also reveal their experiences of university, both as students and academics from their early careers to the present day. This book will be of interest to an international audience that includes new and aspiring academics who come from a working-class background themselves. The multifaceted findings will also be relevant to established academics and students of sociology, education studies and social class.
Carole Binns is a Lecturer at the University of Bradford, UK, and is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She has previously published two journal articles in the field of higher education practice, presented at conferences on the subjects of designing modules for student widening participation and social mobility within academia, and has also contributed to the features section of the Times Higher Education magazine. She is the author of the book Module Design in a Changing Era of Higher Education: Academic Identity, Cognitive Dissonance and Institutional Barriers.
“Drawing upon qualitative data collected from these tenured academics, all of whom were employed at a single teaching-intensive UK university in the roles of Professor, Senior Lecturer or Lecturer, Binns discusses the lived experiences of being an academic from a working-class heritage. In doing so, she contributes to recent debates surrounding social mobility in the UK through demonstrating the complexity inherent in the process of ‘social climbing’. […] In writing this book on the experiences of academics from a working-class heritage, Binns is able to contribute to a relatively under-researched area and also supplements recent research on social mobility and social class inequalities in entry into ‘elite’ occupations. In doing so, the policy of encouraging students from ‘non-traditional’ backgrounds to enter HE is problematised, showing that ‘the concept of ‘‘inclusivity’’ is not always understood ‘‘on the other side’’’ (116). While inequalities relating to ethnicity and gender were not the focus, this book does suggest that further research is necessary to explore different experiences of the academy, especially, as Binns argues, because more working-class graduates, and other ‘non-traditional’ groups, are ‘likely to consider opting to stay in higher education for advanced study and possibly a career in higher education’ (117).”
PhD candidate, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University; LSE Review of Books
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