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Individual choices? Attitudes to debt and its influence on HE participation decisions

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This article explores why a group of young people living within traditionally working-class communities choose not to participate in higher education (HE), even though they have the necessary entry qualifications, and the influence that debt has on their decisions. The research proposes that any strategies devised by the young people were about not owing money and that, at times, the amount of debt appeared to be inconsequential; being in debt was just not the accepted way of doing things. In conjunction with a general fear of debt, this paper highlights subtle and hidden disadvantages that moved beyond the question of whether the young people should participate in HE. A case study approach is adopted; with findings being drawn from a set of semi-structured interviews with 36 young people. The case study is framed by the work of Pierre Bourdieu. A particularly complex attitude to debt was highlighted; not incurring debt appeared to be a cultural rule, particularly when there was no guaranteed employment-related benefit to participation. This paper argues that similar outlooks, backgrounds, interests, lifestyles and opportunities resulted in the adoption of shared practices, common patterns of reactions and accepted ways of doing things when it came to debt.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2018

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  • The journal is based on the belief that there are neglected links between research and theory, and policy and practice in the promotion of widening participation in post-compulsory education and lifelong learning. It aims to provide a forum for the development of theory, the addressing of policy questions and the dissemination of innovative practice in the field of widening participation and lifelong learning.
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