Changes in the Social Origin of Higher Education Graduates in Europe: 1950'S-2000's Socio-Economic, Gender, Ethnicity and Religion

Gaele Goastellec, Université de Lausanne

Since the invention of the University, social belongings have been used in the regulation of access to higher education’ institutions and degrees. Universities’ public authorities characterise the social diversity in which they are embedded by identifying the students that are expected, tolerated or excluded from higher education studies, and, simultaneously, the type of elites they seek to produce. University is a place of negotiation of national/societal identities, the visibility of a social group “resulting of a political and social mobilisation as well as specific historical circumstances” (Desrosières, 1989. p.233). How does this translate in the transformation of access to HE degrees in Europe and how can we interpret it? Using the European Social Survey (ESS) eight first rounds (2002-2016, 270 000 respondents, 30 countries), which allow to analyse the effect of ethnicity and religion in addition to parental level of education and profession, we document “changes in the sociegenesis of successive generations (that) conserve the reproduction of a differentiated and hierarchized social structure.” (Mauger, 2011). Our results reveal largely shared trends between countries: after a first period of socio-economic inequalities’ diminution in access to degrees, those tend to stagnate or arise; women have now greater access to degrees than men in all countries; people with ethnic minorities attributes have lost their advantages in access to HE degrees as well as people who declare no religious belongings when compared to believers. We will present and discuss these general trends, as well as the national variability of their temporalities and the social processes they stem from. Desrosières, 1989, « Comment faire des choses qui tiennent : histoire sociale et statistique », Histoire et Mesure, Vol.4, N°3-4, pp.225-242. Mauger G., 2011, « Préface », in Mannheim K., Le problème des générations, Paris, Armand Colin.

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 Presented in Session 152. Different Beginnings-Comparative Perspectives on Early Tertiary Education