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#EAIR2019 Programme

#EAIR2019 Programme

A Framework of the Social Inequality in Access & Graduation of Higher Education and the Responsibility of HEI therein



Responsibility of Higher Education for Society and Labour Market


Katharina Posch, Vienna University of Economics & Business, Austria

Single presentation - 30 Minutes

August 27, 2019 at 9:15:00 AM



Many policy papers regarding the social responsibility of higher education institutions [HEI] stress their influence on social inequality, often mentioning inequality in both access and graduation. Yet, there are hardly theoretical frameworks that encompass this comprehensive notion of social disparities in higher education. Most approaches focus on one aspect such as the decision to study or drop-out, which is necessary given the complexity of each aspect. Only, they have not been brought together in a ‘bigger picture’ so far. So how can they be integrated into a systematic, comprehensive framework that also helps to study the responsibility of HEI for social inequality? The aim of the paper is to address this gap by developing a framework of the main mechanisms of social inequality and their micro-foundation and to analyse the role of HEI therein. This is done by 1. differentiating the selection processes leading to social inequality in access and graduation of higher education; 2. mapping and summarizing different theoretical approaches to explain each selection process and the social selectivity therein; and 3. discussing the influence and agency of HEI. The paper provides a framework for both academics and practitioners to gain a clearer understanding of the complexities and multidimensionality of social selection in higher education and in how far HEI have a responsibility within these selection processes.


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