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Credentials, talent and cultural capital: a comparative study of educational elites in England and France

Brown, Phillip ORCID:, Power, Sally ORCID:, Tholen, Gerbrand and Allouch, Annabelle 2014. Credentials, talent and cultural capital: a comparative study of educational elites in England and France. British Journal of Sociology of Education 37 (2) , pp. 191-211. 10.1080/01425692.2014.920247

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This article examines student accounts of credentials, talent and academic success, against a backdrop of the enduring liberal ideal of an education-based meritocracy. The article also examines Bourdieu’s account of academic qualifications as the dominant source of institutionalised cultural capital, and concludes that it does not adequately account for comparative differences in the social structure of competition and ideological shifts in class (re)production in different national contexts. This analysis is based on an empirical investigation of elite students at Oxford University and Sciences Po in Paris. We investigated how they understand the competition for a livelihood and whether they see themselves as more ‘talented’ than students from non-elite universities. This investigation revealed important similarities and differences between British and French students that have significant sociological implications for the (re)production and legitimation of educational and labour market inequalities.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Additional Information: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons CC BY license, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
ISSN: 0142-5692
Funders: ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Date of Acceptance: 29 April 2014
Last Modified: 09 May 2023 07:32

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