British-born Bangladeshi Women in Higher Education: Intersectional Experiences and Identities

  • Berenice Scandone

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This study engages with the perspectives of British-born female undergraduate students of Bangladeshi heritage with the aim of addressing the following questions:1) How do social class and ethnicity intersect with one another to influence access to and experiences of higher education, and progression to the labour market?2) How do Bangladeshi immigrants’ female descendants construct their identities by drawing on different dimensions of identification, and how is this informed by participation in education?Women of Bangladeshi origins, who have long been considered as ‘problematic’ for their low rates of participation in education and employment, have substantially increased their presence in universities in the last 20 years. Like those of most ethnic minority backgrounds, however, students of Bangladeshi heritage are over-represented in generally less prestigious post-’92 institutions, tend to have lower retention levels and degree grades compared to their white middle-class peers, and lower employment prospects and wages once controlling for qualifications and socio-economic origins. In this study, I draw on in-depth interviews with 21 British-born women of Bangladeshi background in their early 20s, attending undergraduate degrees at a range of differently ranked universities in London. I apply a Bourdieusian lens to the analysis of their narratives, with the intent of exposing the influence on stances and practices of multiple dimensions of social identity such as class, ‘race’ / ethnicity, religious faith and gender. Findings show how these dimensions are interconnected in terms of the material and symbolic resources they give access to. The findings also reveal how they qualify one another in shaping processes of ‘conditioned transformation’ of structural inequalities. In particular, participants’ economic, social, and cultural resources appear to be simultaneously inflected by class, ‘race’/ethnicity, faith and gender. The relation of these resources to the capital that is privileged in the contexts where participants engage contributes to either facilitate or hinder the accumulation of further capital. In doing so, it conditions their capacity to renegotiate material and symbolic positions, and the ‘strategies’ they can adopt.
Date of Award13 Feb 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorEmma Carmel (Supervisor) & Nicola Ingram (Supervisor)

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