Inequalities in higher education: Applying the Sociology of Basil Bernstein

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This article seeks to re-invigorate debate about how we theorise inequalities in higher education. The work of sociologist Basil Bernstein has not yet been brought to bear in this area, despite the affordances it brings in teasing out the implicit rules that perpetuate inequalities in higher education. Drawing on empirical findings from a qualitative study into the impact of university-led ‘outreach’ work in the UK context, the article applies and tests the work of Bernstein. It is argued that his framework offers the analytical precision to expose the implicit rules and principles that underlie young people’s encounters with higher education.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)316-332
Number of pages17
Issue number2
Early online date8 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018


  • Basil Bernstein
  • higher education
  • inequalities
  • ‘widening participation’

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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