What's it all about?
There is growing concern in policy-making circles and society at large about the persistence of social class as an obstacle to social mobility in the UK.
Education, and a university education in particular, is often seen as a key catalyst to enhancing a person’s social and economic life chances.
However, despite efforts to widen participation in higher education, elite universities have failed to meet the targets set and continue to have difficulties in attracting and recruiting students from working-class families.
Little is known about how students from lower-income families fare when they do reach university and even less about whether their graduate status really enables them to enter prestigious professional careers on an equal footing with better-off peers.
As of autumn 2012, the cap on tuition fees has been raised, and most universities now charge students £9,000 per year, leaving graduates with the prospect of at least a £27,000 debt.
Now more than ever, we need a better understanding of how social class facilitates or impedes the catalytic effects of a university education.
This three-year study examines the experience and benefits that accrue to students attending the University of Bristol (an elite research institution) compared with those attending the University of the West of England (geared to mass education and with strong regional student body)