Experiences of first-generation scholars at a highly selective UK university

Hindle et al. / Learning and Teaching: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences / February 2021

Mt Hood CC female student on bench

Targets set by the UK Office for Students require highly academically selective UK universities to enrol a greater percentage of students identified as least likely to participate in higher education. Such students are typically at a disadvantage in terms of levels of academic preparedness and economic, cultural and social capital. Drawing on 18 interviews with first generation students at Durham University, the authors identified five sites of pressure: developing a sense of belonging within the terms of an elite university culture; engagement in student social activities; financial worries; concerns about academic progress, and selftransformation. Based on these insights, the authors argue that support for first-generation scholars will require that universities recognise and redress elitist cultures that discourage applications from prospective first-generation scholars ultimately ensuring those who do enroll have the best educational and all-round experience.