The extent to which higher education is conceived as ‘within the bounds of the possible’
A major focus of higher education policy in the UK has been to widen participation and diversify the student population. The dominant perspective presents participation as desirable, highly valued and a social good to which individuals should aspire. Our research made no value judgement about people’s decisions to participate or not in HE. The project acknowledged that individuals can live happy and worthwhile lives with or without the attainment of a degree. This chapter reinforces the critique in earlier chapters of narrow economic accounts of decision-making. It extends the analysis of social capital to locate decision-making within a framework of power relationships, where circumstances and individual agency combine to provide different capabilities for agency. As noted in Chapter 5, our evidence suggests that social networks produce varying levels and types of resources that create both barriers and enablement to action.