Loughborough University
Approved Revisions actual- Social Class and educational opportunity - exploring the experiences of undergraduate university students studying Physical Education and Sports Pedagogy.pdf (5.88 MB)

Social class and educational opportunity: exploring the experiences of undergraduate university students studying Physical Education and Sports Pedagogy

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posted on 2022-03-02, 16:48 authored by Michael Hobson
This thesis critically explores the impact of social class and physical capital upon the prior socialisation and subsequent experiences of undergraduate students studying Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy (PESP). In particular the thesis scrutinises the extent which social class impacted the fields of family, school, and sport in cultivating the dispositions students entered university with. It explores how these dispositions intersected with students’ material circumstances, and their subsequent ability to navigate both the academic and social fields within the university.
The study utilised a case study of undergraduate students studying PESP at Summer Heights University (pseudonym), a post-92 university situated in an affluent suburb in the Southeast of England. Utilising a mixture of life-history and semi-structured interviews conducted in semester two of their second year as undergraduate students and one year after graduating. Participants were purposefully sampled to reflect a range of different social classes, and levels of physical capital to provide data pertaining to the varied classed experiences of students. The subsequent analysis illuminated several key areas highlighting the different dispositions students entered their degree course with and the resulting impact of social class upon students’ experiences.
As a result of the process of data analysis, interpreted through a framework inspired by Bourdieusian theorising, this thesis developed several unique themes which provide an original contribution to the study of social class and higher education in the UK. These provide a nuanced insight into how mechanisms in family, schools, and sport shape the specific dispositions students entered HE with; highlighting the roles which modelling of behaviour by parents, the geo-demography of the schools and colleges students attended, and the individual knowledge, skills and networks participants entered HE with. Furthermore, it became apparent that students perceived academic staff to attribute symbolic value to behaviours loosely associated with notions of independent learning and professionalism gained from experiences in the PESP field but noted that these often failed to consider differences in student’s social networks and material conditions. Finally, it was evident that classed patterns were apparent in relation to students' engagement in social activities within the university. However, it appeared that these patterns were not simply devised along classed lines, with factors such as commuting or living in university accommodation, ethnicity, and students' external commitments all impacting their experiences.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


Loughborough University

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© Michael Roy Hobson

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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Rachel Sandford ; Gareth Wiltshire ; July Stirrup ; Michael Waring ; John Evans

Qualification name

  • PhD

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

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