Uneven student mobilities: Imaginaries of place, space and class in South Yorkshire and Singapore

  • Sam Whewall

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


In an era of globalising and massified higher education (HE), this thesis presents a novel approach to studying social inequalities in HE by foregrounding the spatial processes underlying student mobilities and youth transitions. It does so by examining the perspectives of two groups of British young people – from a state school in South Yorkshire in northern England, and an elite international school in Singapore – whose trajectories are configured unevenly, shaped by their geographic im/mobilities, and their imaginaries of place, space and class.

Although much has been written on the perspectives of young people from different social class backgrounds regarding where they ‘fit’ in relation to the social field of HE (Reay, 2017), research on how both social and spatial forces shape student mobilities and youth transitions has been somewhat limited. Using a qualitative mapping method and semi-structured interviews, this thesis incorporates these spatial elements, eliciting socio-spatial imaginaries, and presenting a nuanced and interdisciplinary approach to the study of student mobilities.

In the study, social and spatial processes mediate the young people’s imaginaries of their current and future selves, albeit in starkly different ways and at different spatial scales. Individuals are positioned inequitably in relation to socio-spatial geometries structuring the social fields of HE. Furthermore, the globalisation and massification of HE systems have further entrenched inequalities between the two groups, diminishing the time-space between HE institutions in the global north and the globally mobile elite students in the study, while marginalising those in northern England.
Date of Award1 Nov 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorMichael Donnelly (Supervisor) & Hugh Lauder (Supervisor)

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