Thinking with Bourdieu : thinking after Bourdieu. Using ‘field’ to consider in/equalities in the changing field of English higher education

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper uses Bourdieu’s concept of ‘field’ as a tool to examine higher
education participation in England in the context of diversified and differentiated
provision. Admissions practices for courses in two institutions offering tertiary
and higher education demonstrate how the official rules of the game shape the
experience of students moving into and through HE on vocational and alternative
routes. These examples suggest that rules created for the ‘selective’ part of the HE field can have perverse effects on other parts of the field, creating barriers rather than bridges for students seeking to participate in HE via alternative routes. The paper concludes by considering the strengths and limitations of using Bourdieu’s tools for understanding diversification in HE. Does using Bourdieu lead to the inevitable conclusion that diversity is a form of diversion, directing a proportion of the population through an easily accessible, but ultimately less rewarding path, or can Bourdieu’s tools suggest possibilities for transformation and change?


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-80
Number of pages19
JournalCambridge Journal of Education
Issue number1
Early online date9 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Bourdieu, field, tertiary education, higher education, diversity