My PhD project, supervised by Robert Hollands and Adél Pásztor, seeks to explore apprenticeships and undergraduate degrees from the perspective of young people from working class backgrounds. In the wake of concerns about increases in tuition fees, an obvious appeal to apprenticeships arises with the ability to earn a modest wage while learning instead of accumulating debt. This may also be more suited to working class cultures of ‘paying your way’ at home, and gaining “practical” or “useful” skills (as opposed to more abstract academic knowledge). That said, some research finds former apprentices earn on average less than university graduates, even when tuition fees are factored. With this in mind the decision to study at university, though with added risk for those from working class backgrounds, may still be worthwhile.
This project aims to explore how young people navigate these complex decisions, utilising traditional Bourdieusian notions of habitus, field and capital, and expanding upon these through considerations of emotion and fulfilment. While there has been considerable research into the education choices of working class students, much of which utilises Bourdieusian theory and work comparing experiences between pre- and post-1992 universities, far less have compared higher education experiences with those of Modern Apprenticeships, or looked at the impact of emotional capital across these pathways. It is my hope that this research can contribute to filling these gaps in academic literature.
Prior to beginning my PhD I studied for my Undergraduate and Master’s degree at Newcastle University. At undergraduate level I was awarded the Peter Selman Prize, with my undergraduate dissertation, “Teaching: an Emotional Labour”, also receiving the award for Best Sociology Dissertation. Prior to university study I worked as an Apprentice Teaching Assistant in a village primary school, where I was nominated for a National Apprenticeship Award.