Kate Howley: “Discourses of non-participation in Higher Education and the reproduction of class inequalities”

In Students by General Account

My PhD looks at Widening Participation initiatives in HE and how these construct classed narratives around non-participation. The research engages with, and contributes to, critiques of neoliberal HE policy and post-Marxist literature that consider HE as a site of inequality reproduction as well as understandings of governance, interrogating how narratives created through WP and FA policy draw on and reproduce classed assumptions that stigmatise non-participants. I use a critical discourse analysis of landmark government reviews of HE, political debates, media receptions, and HEI Access Plans, exploring how ‘non-participation’ becomes infused with negative class connotations. I explore the framing of HE participation as a rational choice made to ‘improve’ oneself, and the simultaneous stigmatisation of non-participants that guides the subject whilst, at the same time, transferring responsibility onto them.