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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


External organisations

  • University of Nottingham


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
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology of Education
Early online date30 Jun 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Jun 2021


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