Cosmopolitan Brands: graduate students navigating the social space of elite global universities

Martin Myers, Kalwant Bhopal

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    Drawing on Pierre Bourdieu’s analysis of the competition for economic, social and cultural capitals within educational fields, this article reports empirical research from 49 in-depth interviews with graduate students at four elite universities in the USA and the UK. It argues the brands of elite global universities work to reproduce social and cultural capital for a small cohort of elite students, and by doing so perpetuate and reinforce systems that privilege a select few. By drawing upon student narratives, our findings demonstrate the cosmopolitan nature of elite university brands. These ‘Cosmopolitan Brands’ are immersed in local and highly exclusive practices which reinforce wider inequalities of social class. We explore how individual students navigate their immersion and positioning within the brands of global elite universities; competing first as students at university before progressing to compete for power and status within global economies.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)701-716
    Number of pages16
    JournalBritish Journal of Sociology of Education
    Issue number5-6
    Early online date30 Jun 2021
    Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    The Ford Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Social Science Research Council, and the National Science Foundation supported our work on Revitalization Movements in Africa in the 1950s and 1960s. We are grateful for the invitation extended by Kenneth Alper, M.D., and Howard Lotsof to participate in the Ibogaine Conference and to reexamine our original research in the light of contemporary interests in ibogaine as a transitional alkaloid.

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


    • Bourdieu
    • Cosmopolitan
    • brand
    • elite university
    • graduate students

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Education
    • Sociology and Political Science


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