Educational Trajectories of First-Generation Students as a Case of Inequality in Higher Education

Keywords: first-generation students, social inequality, inequality in higher education, subjective social status, educational trajectories, educational aspirations, cultural capital, low-SES students


Today educational trajectories of First-Generation College Students (hereinafter referred to as FGS) can be considered as a key subject of international research on inequality. The study of FGS has both conceptual and practical implications: holding a consistently vulnerable position within the higher education institutions, FGS constitute a vivid case that illustrates the mechanisms of inequality reproduction, as well as demonstrates its multidimensional and rigid nature. While there is a well-developed tradition of research on this issue in the West, the FGS category has not yet received much attention in the Russian academic field, which leaves invisible many aspects of inequality within Russian education.

This article is devoted to the review of international studies of First-Generation Students – people who were the first in their family to find themselves studying in higher education institutions. Two groups of sources are analyzed: empirical educational strategies of FGS, as well as theoretical works aimed at conceptualizing this category and explaining the vulnerability of its representatives in the education system. Two areas of empirical work on FGS could be distinguished: the first one is devoted to the study of educational choice and admission to universities, while the second one considers the process of studying at a university. The concepts of habitus and forms of capital by P. Bourdieu, the integration model by V. Tinto and the role theory by G.H. Mead are considered as the dominant theoretical directions of understanding FGS. The article concludes with the discussion of potential and limitations of studying FGS in the Russian context in terms of both specifics of national educational system and the stratification model of Russian society.


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How to Cite
Lukina, Anastasia. 2023. “Educational Trajectories of First-Generation Students As a Case of Inequality in Higher Education”. Voprosy Obrazovaniya / Educational Studies Moscow, no. 2 (June).
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