Transition into a new culture? Nontraditional students at risk

  • Nairz, E. (Contributor)
  • Klaus Feldmann (Contributor)
  • Judith Spiegl (Contributor)

Activity: Talk or presentationScience to science


Despite educational expansion, access to university is still distributed on the basis of social inequality. This tendency can be observed in all EU countries with Germany, Austria, and Switzerland showing a small amount of upward mobility. (OECD 2012; Müller & Pollak 2010). Many working-class students or so called non-traditional students never contemplate entering the field of tertiary education; others achieve university entry but fail to overcome the obstacles they are faced within the field of higher education. Since qualitative research has not been paying enough attention to the reconstruction of these obstacles sixteen narrative problem-centred interviews with non-traditional students who dropped out of university were conducted.

Drawing on Pierre Bourdieus theoretical-methodological approach, the paper explores discrepancies between the students and lecturers habitus as well as between the students habitus and the field of study. Especially those students with a strong sense of their place (Goffman; Bourdieu) are at risk of feeling as cultural outsiders thus leading to increased fears of failure. It can also be shown that clandestine forms of symbolic violence play a key role in the process of dropping out, whereby the transition process into university is crucial. The paper reflects on the relevance of Bourdieus relational thinking when trying to gain further insights into the understanding of mechanisms of social inequality. The presentation will finish with a discussion about necessary measures to improve completion rates of non-traditional students at universities in Europe.
Period8 Sept 201511 Sept 2015
Event titleECER
Event typeUnknown
Degree of RecognitionInternational

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 504001 General sociology
  • 504005 Educational sociology
  • 504007 Empirical social research