Globally, growth in the number of students from diverse backgrounds entering university requires broader understanding of how persistence and success is enacted at an individual lived level. We know very little about how learners draw on ‘internal capabilities’ when persisting in higher education; these capabilities are not innate but instead develop in interaction with an individual's environment (social, cultural, familial and political) and are informed by existing access to forms of capitals. Exploring how internal capabilities and capitals inform the act of persistence contributes much needed alternative perspectives to the issue of educational participation. This chapter outlines how the work of Amartya Sen and Pierre Bourdieu can be usefully combined and utilised within the higher education setting. In presenting this theoretical fusion, this chapter defines one approach to exploring what learners bring to the higher education field (capitals) and how existing capabilities are actioned to support relative success within this environment. Details of how this approach was applied within one study are provided and conclusions are drawn relating to wider applications of this methodological approach.
O'Shea, S. (2020), "Rethinking Diversity: Combining Sen and Bourdieu to Critically Unpack Higher Education Participation and Persistence", Huisman, J. and Tight, M. (Ed.) Theory and Method in Higher Education Research (Theory and Method in Higher Education Research, Vol. 6), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 115-129. https://doi.org/10.1108/S2056-375220200000006008
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