Purposes and Hierarchies: A Review of the Literature on Higher Education

  • Rachel Brooks


The changes to the HE system over recent decades, which were outlined in Chapter 1, have prompted considerable debate amongst politicians, journalists and educationalists about the purpose of a university education. The first part of this chapter considers some of the main ways in which this purpose has been articulated, drawing on a number of different ‘official discourses’. It argues that most of these discourses are underpinned by one of two competing theoretical explanations: one that draws on ‘liberal’ or ‘technocratic’ arguments, and a second that relies on theories of social closure. While the rhetoric of politicians and government officials — as well as much government policy — seems to be predicated on the former, the empirical research discussed in this chapter suggests that young people’s HE choices can be more adequately explained by the latter.


Young People Liberal Position Educational Choice Cultural Reproduction Social Closure 
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Copyright information

© Rachel Brooks 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rachel Brooks
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Educational StudiesUniversity of SurreyUK

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