|dc.description.abstract||This exploratory study examined the life-histories of 21 men who were mature (27years+ ), full-time students in two Scottish ancient universities. Most were first-generation entrants. Individual semi-structured interviews asked about the men's origins and lives so far. The aim was to understand men as gendered beings, and to consider the dynamics that had impacted on their lives. Though useful findings in their own right, the research also used this data to consider sociological theories of
contemporary identity/ies, and to contemplate Bourdieu's theories of social-class reproduction.
The legacy of trying to promote equal opportunities through education made
Scotland an important test-bed for widening participation. Ancient universities were
selected to throw dimensions of educational inclusion/exclusion into relief.
Researching male 'first-generation' students responded to concerns that men from
manual origins should return to education given the dissolution of their traditional
The research found few 'hybrid' identities, as experienced by first-generation
students in other research. This may reflect the men's complex cultural trajectories
prior to university, and distancing from former working-class origins. Adopting
'student' identities held few problems. 'Traditional' students were seen as insecure,
and mature students as providing a valuable contribution to the institution. For older
men, student-hood fulfilled a latent ambition. For others, 'student' added a more
positive aspect to their previous identities. The post-modem celebration of playful
identities was dismissed, as even playful uptakes revealed politically darker sides.
There was more support for the self-reflexive identity project, which was gendered in
that (with some notable exceptions) it was constructed in the context of traditional
gender relationships. Bourdieu's conceptual framework was useful in explaining these 'divergent
trajectories'. The Catholic community could be seen to promote a class-fraction
habitus, which valued education, commitment and social networks. Residing in
university-rich cities reduced the cultural distance between the men and HE, whilst
the 'flexible' labour market created spaces where men from manual origins worked
alongside undergraduate and graduate others. Such influences were compatible with
Bourdieu' s theories.
However, there was another influence that Bourdieu was less successful at
explaining. The matrimonial field did not operate with the logic of other fields.
Graduate women formed long-term relationships with these men, despite significant
differences in their capitals. For Bourdieu, class endogemony is a key part of class
reproduction. That is challenged here; human emotion cannot be reduced to simple
logic. Furthermore, cities offer importance spaces for the reconfiguration of gender
(as well as class) dynamics.||en