Widening participation: does cultural capital really make a difference for first year students?
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Government policy to widen participation at university is aimed at producing significant changes in the student demographic. This will likely increase the number of students from non-traditional backgrounds such as those with low socio-economic status and those from rural or isolated areas. Many of these commencing students will also be the first member of their immediate family to attend university. By drawing on Bourdieu’s (1991) notion of cultural capital the convenors will lead a discussion of how prior knowledge and experience of tertiary education can impact upon student’s understandings and expectations of university study. In particular, the discussion will examine the debate in the literature as to whether first in family students are significantly disadvantaged and compare these outcomes with findings from a large multi institutional ALTC project examining the expectations and experiences of over 3000 first year students.