The cultural capital of senior leaders in Elite Traditional International Schools: An enduring ‘leadership nobility’?

Tristan Bunnell, Alexander Gardner-McTaggart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (SciVal)


The number of schools delivering a non-national curriculum in English outside an English-speaking nation has doubled in size since 2012 and numbered 12,000 by 2021. However, the well-recognized paradoxical situation of how these supposedly values and ethically driven institutions can continuously discriminate in favor of certain types of educators (largely native English-speaking Anglo-Saxon educators from Britain and North America) has eluded research inquiry. Using data taken from adverts on a prominent recruitment agency website seeking senior leaders globally in the well-established body of ‘elite traditional international schools’ (ETISs), we will inquire into the type and character of the sought-after senior leader. Utilizing Pierre Bourdieu’s (1998) notion in his book The State Nobility that an elite school’s field of power is made up of actors with a distinctive and common set of attributes and style, we will explore the cultural capital traits (the ‘objectified’, ‘embodied’, and ‘institutionalized’ forms) that are sought in the prospective senior leader of the ETIS. We can see from this analysis that a distinct circuit of privilege seems to exist and be encouraged, aiding and (re)producing a field of power occupied by certain (already privileged) actors. An enduring ‘leadership nobility’ does seem to be evident.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Leadership in Education
Early online date31 Jan 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 Jan 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Strategy and Management


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