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Student ambassadors, trust and HE choices

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UK policy on widening participation is targeted at young people from lower socio-economic groups and at those with no family background of HE. The structure of the HE system, however, is one in which the 'cultural capital' of middle-class applicants is more valuable in the higher education 'game' than that of applicants from targeted backgrounds. It is generally held that the family is the major site for the generation of such cultural capital. Does this mean, therefore, that attempts to widen participation are inevitably doomed, and that young people from lower socio-economic groups are automatically disadvantaged forever? Or are there initiatives that may enable young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to acquire aspects of cultural capital which help them on the road to HE? This paper looks at how knowledge about HE may be acquired and how student ambassadors and group mentoring may be a significant 'site' for the generation of cultural capital to support widening participation. It argues that if ambassadors can earn the trust of young people they can become 'hot' sources of information about HE. This trust depends on the nature and context of the ambassador/student relationship. Attempts to formalise such relationships (e.g. through introducing accreditation) could undermine their value.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-10-01

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  • The Journal of Access Policy and Practice informs and supports development in access and widening participation. It explores education policy and practice as it affects access to learning and surveys the field, both nationally and internationally. Informed by theory and current research the journal shares ideas and practical solutions to create wider and deeper participation in lifelong learning and offers a space for practitioners and academics to critically reflect and debate different perspectives.
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