Beyond ‘the mire of laws and figures’: working class access to Irish Higher Education
Fergal Finnegan, Department of Adult & Community Education, Maynooth University
When: 27th April, Wed, 1-2pm
Where: Room L540, James Joyce Library Building
The overreliance on quantitative research methods has meant working class students’ lived experience in higher education has been overlooked. Moreover, within access policy as a whole there is a relatively ‘thin’ conception of equality and a strong faith in the progressive nature of Knowledge Based Economies. This broad framing of economy and equality in policy and the particular way class is typically conceptualised in research has meant the nature and causes of class inequality are left unclear and the limits of access as currently envisaged are rarely highlighted. This talk is based on a study that used an alternative approach to researching working class access to HE –a critical realist study using biographical research methods (Alheit and Dausien, 2002; Archer, 2007; Chamberlayne et al, 2000). This involved a critical review of theories of class and access and a retroductive analysis of students’ biographical accounts. At the heart of the study are eighty one in-depth interviews conducted longitudinally with mainly working class students in three Irish HEIs. These life stories offer a very different perspective on class, access and equality. After a discussion of the findings of this study, the talk will outline some of the broader implications of the research for theorising class and understanding access.
Fergal Finnegan is from Dublin. He is a lecturer in the Department of Adult & Community Education, Maynooth University and a co- director of the Higher Diploma in Further Education course. He worked in community education before joining the department. His research interests include equality, democracy, social class, critical realism, and students’ experience in HE and more broadly the role of education in relation to state formation, political economy and social movements. Fergal recently co-edited Student Voices on inequalities in European Higher Education: Challenges for Policy and Practice in a Time of Change (Routledge) and is one of the convenors of the ESREA Network on Active Democratic Citizenship and Adult Learning. He is currently conducting research on employability and HE across Europe and working on a book on access and Irish HE.