The barbarians at the gate. Playing the higher education game: Observations from the periphery of the field

S M Leahy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Citations (Scopus)


Higher education is considered by some to be synonymous with learning gained in an institution named as a university. The credentials gained from learning in such locations allow the holders to enter into the elite, which reproduces social exclusion to the benefit of that elite. In England, policy reform has opened up access to higher education to a level of almost mass participation. This has largely been achieved by funding higher education in colleges. However, following the implementation of this recommendation, a recurring criticism is that such learning is not 'real' higher education (HE). This article seeks to examine this notion of 'real' HE using Bourdieu's tools of field, habitus and capital. The questions framing the enquiry are: is the field of higher education populated only by institutions named as universities? Has a new field been created? If the field has changed, has the game of higher education changed as new players have entered the field, or does the traditional doxa still prevail? What are the implications of the field games for institutional habitus and capital? Drawing upon the experiences of a college of further education located in the periphery of the field, the questions posed are considered in this context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-185
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Further and Higher Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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