Good students, bad pupils: constructions of 'aspiration', 'disadvantage' and social class in undergraduate-led widening participation work

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This C-SAP funded research explores undergraduate student involvement in widening participation initiatives at a traditional university and the ways that students promote and market their university and higher education more generally. It seeks to explore the widening participation messages disseminated by students in their work with pupils and teachers, the ways that these are taken up and/or resisted, and the interactions between university students and "local" school pupils. The idea of peer led discussion, whereby "sameness" is encouraged and endorsed, is positively promoted within student tutoring programmes. However, this study found a sharpening of notions of "us" and "them" amongst many student participants and a vocalization of educational success stories versus educational "failures". While involvement in such programmes may be a way that students can contribute to their locality and foster career skills, this study interrogates the scope of "all round benefits" in widening participation and suggests that social class is mobilized in constructions of the "good student" as against the "bad pupil". Widening participation initiatives need to engage with - and beyond - such interpersonal positioning in order to erode continued structured inequalities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-168
Number of pages14
JournalEducational Review
Issue number2
Early online date15 Apr 2008
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2008


  • class
  • education
  • widening participation

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