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    Welcome to the knowledge factory? A study of working class experience, identity and learning in Irish Higher Education

    Finnegan, Fergal (2012) Welcome to the knowledge factory? A study of working class experience, identity and learning in Irish Higher Education. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

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    This is a study of working class students’experience in Irish Higher Education. It is based on eighty one in-depth interviews with fifty one students of all ages between 2007 and 2012 gathered longitudinally in three different institutions of Higher Education in the Republic of Ireland. Using in-depth biographical interviews and grounded methods, within a critical and egalitarian theoretical framework, the main aim of the research is to offer a ‘thick’ account of working class students’ experience and, in particular, to document how they view and value education. The thesis analyses access and widening participation in Irish HE from the perspective of the interviewees. It documents that tertiary education is very highly valued and examines why this is the case through the participants’ life and learning stories. The research also explores the impact institutional differentiation is having on access and participation. The data also offer insight into the type of learning processes that are occuring in contemporary HE and elaborates a theory of reflexive learning through the interviews. This is framed within a critical synthesis of the work of Engestrom and Mezirow and a critique of the ‘reproduction and resistance’ debate as well as drawing on recent sociological work on the role of education in the making of contemporary biographies. The participants’ biographical accounts offer insight into working class experience inside and outside the walls of the university and the research suggests that shared experiences in community, family and work gives rise to distinct patterns of class (dis)identification. Based on the data and wideranging desk research-especially the work of Axel Honneth, Diane Reay, Henri Lefebvre, Andrew Sayer and Pierre Bourdieu- the thesis outlines a conceptual framework for analysing class inequality based on ownership, authority and legitimate cultural capital within a theory of social space. Furthermore, the biographical accounts of education and society gathered for the inquiry indicate that the politics of respect and recognition are crucial to understanding contemporary working class experience. A key argument of the thesis is that class analysis, social science and educational scholarship needs to develop a more sophisticated set of theoretical tools for exploring the normative nature of social practice and in particular the affective, embodied experience of class inequality inside and outside education.

    Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
    Keywords: knowledge factory; working class; experience; identity; learning; Irish Higher Education;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Adult and Community Education
    Item ID: 6734
    Depositing User: IR eTheses
    Date Deposited: 06 Jan 2016 15:09
      Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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