Informational capital and the transition to university: First‐in‐family students' experiences in Austrian higher education

Franziska Lessky, Erna Nairz, Klaus Feldmann

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review

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The agenda for widening participation in higher education
has led to increasing numbers of students with a broader
range of education and family backgrounds. However,
transitioning to the university landscape remains a highly
complex negotiation process, especially for first-in-family
students, who cannot draw on previous experience from
higher education in their families. Gaining access to informational capitala combination of cultural and social capital—plays a crucial role in managing education transitions.
We draw on rich empirical data obtained from 26 autobio-
graphical narrative interviews with first-in-family university
students in Austria to investigate how transitions to university are affected by informational capital. We also explore
how access to informational capital was influenced by (1) institutional practices, such as initiatives to support students,
especially first-year students; and (2) cultural fit—the extent
to which a student's cultural capital corresponded with the
dominant cultural capital in the field of their chosen discipline or higher education establishment. Our findings show
that gaining access to informational capital was strongly affected by the institutional practices at universities within
the different disciplines, thus highlighting the importance
of higher education institutions in supporting their stu-
dents during transition processes. We conclude with policy implications for how higher education institutions can assist.
first-in-family students to succeed at university.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27 - 40
JournalEuropean Journal of Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 504005 Educational sociology

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