Inequalities in access to further and higher education

Reeve, Fiona (2020). Inequalities in access to further and higher education. In: Cooper, Victoria and Holford, Naomi eds. Exploring Childhood and Youth. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, pp. 123–136.



The chapter explores how young people make transitions from compulsory schooling into work, or increasingly, into education and training. The focus is be on young people in industrialised societies in the Global North, where opportunities for further study are growing and becoming more diverse. For many young people further study is both an aspirational and achievable choice. At the same time post-school qualifications are now often viewed as necessary for ‘a good job’ and seen as a key means of developing career aspirations. The reverse assumption suggests that not participating in further study may reduce a young person’s chances of accessing secure employment, leading to more precarious work. Viewed in this way the post-school options available to young people in these societies can be both appealing and a source of anxiety. In this context, what are the study choices available to young people? How do young people weigh up their choices, and what influences them? Why do some young people transition seamlessly into higher education while others do not consider this as a possible future? These are largely sociological questions, and this is the perspective within childhood and youth studies which is explored in this chapter. Although transitions from school are often framed in terms of individual choice and aspiration, evidence of inequalities in post-school outcomes suggests that society continues to shape the prospects for young people. This chapter explores the outcomes for young people and how these relate to their economic position, ethnicity and gender.

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