The New Social Mobility
How the Politicians Got It Wrong

Eleven: Tightening bonds and professional access


This chapter extends the sceptical discussion of meritocracy to higher education, and access to employment. The professions’ partially successful attempt to achieve a closed shop restricts entry by those from less advantaged homes, and the less academically skilled of their own children. Data on qualifications and ‘personal qualities’ required for recruitment show detailed connections between social and cultural capital, and occupational outcome, are complicated. Higher education is status stratified: not all degrees are equal. The Higher Education Initial Participation Rate (‘HEIPR’) exaggerates the number of graduates; other statistical sources do not include data on social class. Increasing student diversity does not automatically increase mobility: working class students continue to be disadvantaged once they enter university. Meritocratic and individualistic explanations of mobility are inadequate.

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