This paper deals with the various educational strategies, attitudes and behaviors adopted and displayed by Danish university students from professional class and working-class backgrounds. While access to universities in Denmark remains unequal, certain types of universities and fields of study have wider participation among working-class students than others. At the same time a range of qualitative studies show that working-class students tend to be more risk aversive when it comes to job security and to the economic costs of studying. They tend to lack a sense of belonging to their university, and some identify culturally with their working-class heritage. We investigate these differences in Denmark through qualitative interviews with 60 students from six different programs. Comparatively, Denmark is an interesting case because higher education students universally receive government grants and have no tuition fees, and because the social democratic welfare regime gives a central place to the notion of equality of opportunity in the education system. We ask how and to what extent Danish students’ choice of university program, their educational strategies and attitudes and behaviors are class-based. Contrary to other studies, Danish working-class university students do not refer to their class cultural background or to a collective working-class identity as either an asset or a challenge. Furthermore, financial constraints in the student’s upbringing or present situation are not perceived as having an impact on choice of higher education for working-class students. Risk assessments address only the utilitarian value of the programs studied and the question of whether they lead to secure and well-defined job positions. Distinguishing between class origin and university program allows us both to see how class origin and education strategies work in a Danish context and to assess what characterizes programs favored by professional and working-class students, respectively. SHORT ABSTRACT: This paper studies the educational strategies adopted by university students from different class backgrounds in a Scandinavian welfare regime. Studies shows distinct differences among classes relating to economic considerations, risk averse behavior, and patterns of socialization among university students. We investigate these differences through qualitative interviews with 60 students from six programs. We ask how and to what extent Danish students’ choice of program, their educational strategies, attitudes, and behaviors are class related. We find that strategies are class-based, but Danish working class students do not refer to their class cultural background or to a collective working class identity as either an asset or a challenge. Furthermore, financial constraints are not perceived as impacting their choice of higher education.
Comparative Education Review, 2013, Vol 57, Issue 3, p. 457-480
students; School and education; Family background; Social Inheritance