Bucking the trend: high-achieving, working-class girls and their strategic university decision making

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Based on the life and educational histories of sixteen high-achieving, working-class girls applying to high-tariff universities, this paper rekindles debates about the role of agency within the decision-making process of young people who might not otherwise be expected to apply to such institutions. It draws on Margaret Archer’s theorising to tease out the interplay between structure and agency in the form of reflexivity and show how this shapes the girls’ educational trajectories, rather than pre-determining them. The paper highlights how social class powerfully influences working-class applicants’ university plans, in the form of constraints and enablements, but also argues that the girls in this paper are not simply passive young women to whom things happen. As active agents, they are instead becoming increasingly skilled in reflexively navigating their own pathways through education and advance their applications to high-tariff universities in strategic and deliberative ways.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology of Education
Early online date28 Feb 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Feb 2024

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