Aspiring for a place: The segregation of access to Higher Education.

Abstract:
Across Australia, students vie competitively for a place within higher education institutions to access desirable courses buoyed by the promise of an alternate future that is problematically patterned by sociological class and measures of family income, race, gender and ableism. In this paper we examine the potential of Higher Education and question who is afforded a place amidst the hyper competitive market in which specific forms of institutional habitus constrain the extent to which social inequality is masked by the myth of meritocracy.We begin by charting an increasingly destabilised policy terrain on aspiration by building on the Bradley Review (2008) towards the evaluation of the HEPPP: Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (2017) to explore the conflicting dynamics of striving to meet the divergent aims of educational equity and social mobility, at the behest of market-driven agendas. Through the use of Critical Discourse Analysis (Fairclough,2012), we traverse the policy landscape upon which access to Higher Education is now built. Through an analysis of key policy documents Uneven Playing Field: The state of Australian Schools (2016); Quality Schools, Quality Outcomes (2016); Counting the Cost of Lost Opportunity in Australian Education (2017). In doing so we consider how students might become excluded in an era of increasing marketisation, globalization and sustained disadvantage.Drawing on Reay (2004) following Bourdieu (1999) we take up the notion of ‘institutional habitus’ to uncover the ways that policy articulations of fairness are being reframed to establish unequal hierarchies of inequality. Moving on from a governmental sustained focus on Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP) we turn to imagine a future in which traditional categories of disadvantage are now graduated and segregation is entrenched and realised on uneven playing fields and challenge how we conceive of notions of merit/success and failure in the future.

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