«S u e Cl e g g J a cq u e li n e Steve nso n J o h n W ill ot t Acknowledgements This project has depended on the support of many people, to whom we ...»
(Student 18, Female, 21, White British, Christian, family home, Law, FE college, 1st generation) This was true even for those students who were studying Politics – where there was seen to be a difference between having an awareness of politics and undertaking political activity. These students identified that they would be very
selective as to which specific activities they might refer to on a CV:
Some of the other stuff I would be quite reluctant to put down on a CV, especially if potential employers have access to the internet and type in the unions thing, you know, address and then the website comes up, because there is quite a lot of stuff that they would probably not be too appreciative of in there. I mean I can’t imagine that if the choice is between me and another one, and I have got this, they are going to say well we will have the other one, but I imagine it probably would have some impact on it – depending on the company as well. I mean some companies are more anti-union than others.
(Student 52, Male, 19, White British, Politics, sixth form college, not 1st generation) 18.104.22.168 The valorisation of ECA by the HEI
Referring specifically to pedagogy, Thomas (2002, p. 431) argues that:
“educational institutions are able to determine what values, language and knowledge are regarded as legitimate, and therefore ascribe success and award qualifications on this basis. Consequently, pedagogy is not an instrument of teaching, so much as of socialisation and reinforcing status.” However, the ways in which the HEI both legitimised and valorised the ECA students were participating in also contributed to the ways students were, or felt they were, differentially treated.
Students frequently complained that the university didn’t make them aware of
what ECA were available:
There were also many examples of where students felt that their lives outside of the classroom were of no value or interest to their lecturers and were either
overlooked or irrelevant, as this example demonstrates:
And I won’t mention the name, but a lecturer mentioned how students are referred to as ‘resource units’ or something by the management, which is quite disturbing. I mean another student says ‘oh well why is that a problem kind of thing, as long as we are getting the education?’... and referring to students as resource units and things like that – it is partly dehumanising and stuff, it is reducing people to statistics (Student 52, Male, 19, White British, Politics, sixth form college, not 1st generation) Because many tutors did not know what their students did outside of classes, they were consequently not valuing participation, not making links between ECA and curricular activity and so failing to utilise the experience students were gaining through their participation in diverse forms of ECA. This is particularly
true for participation in paid employment:
I mean probably the sad thing is they don’t really take much interest in you as a personal student. They’re just really interested in the class so they probably don’t know what each single person does so they probably won’t know that I actually have a job in an architect’s office and play golf for the university team, they just see me as another student coming to each tutorial or lecture.
(Student 10, Male, 20, White British, Architectural Technology, FE college, 1st generation) This is in sharp contrast to how other students were being treated. Many were in a clearly more advantageous position, with tutors or lecturers well aware of what they were participating in outside of the classroom and providing support for them. They were being given clear support to recognise and develop their employability skills through participation in ECA, through PDP activities, discussion on ECA within the curriculum and direction to other sources of support such as Skills for Learning for the development of CVs. Where this had
happened students recognised and strongly appreciated this support:
We filled in this massive actual portfolio about... it was competence and everything was ‘are you competent in the work place?’ Like you had to give like a critical, you know, like a story what happened in your life like what changed you and things like that... and it obviously made you think about what you had to do... as we went through the portfolio I was thinking I haven’t got, you know, examples... and then I was, the more and more I filled it in things were just springing to my mind and I could just, I was easily just writing it and writing it and
The differential treatment students received depended on two factors: the form of ECA students were participating in and which were (or were seen to be) valorised at institutional level, and the dispositions of individual lecturers.
Institutional valorisation of different forms of ECA Those students involved with (university-supported) international volunteering opportunities, BUSA activities (or other high level sporting activity) and other university societies or clubs, appeared to receive greater recognition than those
involved in other forms of ECA:
... when I was a woman’s officer [in the Students’ Union]... I missed a day of University for that but I think that is kind of they understand if you want that and they are not going to sort of mark you down because you had to go for a day because you are part of the Students’ Union.
(Student 17, Female, 20, White British, English Literature, sixth form college, 1st generation) I’ve missed a few lectures through having games [at BUSA level] but I went and saw the tutor and she wasn’t too bothered. She said it was all on X-stream and she gave me some help because she is quite … what’s the word I am thinking of … you know, she really encourages you to play extra-curricular sport and things like that and get involved in the university teams.
(Student 54, Male, 19, Christian, Physical Education, sixth form college, not 1st generation) In addition, it was clear that some students came from families where the habitus did not support participation in certain forms of ECA. The University valorisation of certain forms of ECA creates an alternative habitus for some students. The University not only allowed students to legitimately miss classes or lectures, it also provided them with opportunities to participate in ECA, which
they otherwise might not have had:
[On travelling to Russia with the University]... parents...
devastated … they are really scared. Yes they, I am seeing them tomorrow and they are terrified, they even, my mum keeps ringing
This contrasts with how students were treated if they were late for lectures or had to miss classes because they had a part-time job. Participation in paid work was considered to be a particularly unacceptable reason for missing classes,
causing significant tensions between students who had to work and their tutors:
Well one tutor, I did like him but last term he said ‘I don’t care if you’ve got paid, if you’ve work, this comes first’ and that’s very, very difficult when I’ve got my managers on my back saying work comes first. Work is your priority when you’re here, so I was really caught in the middle because obviously my priority is me but I can’t come to university if I don’t work and you know that’s just how it is. So that was very frustrating that tutor saying that because there was nothing I could do and I almost felt like I understand that they want us to put the best effort in but there is other commitments here you know. I don’t have mummy and daddy to pay the bills.
(Student 51, Female, 32, White British, Media & Popular Culture, FE college, not 1st generation) We have a Monday morning meeting every Monday, and M. my tutor, was basically like ‘people who have got jobs really can they just cut down on their hours and maybe kind of come in more’... And I think obviously the tutors get quite annoyed about it as well. It’s obviously disturbing the whole class as well as them, and reorganising things and tutorials.
(Student 14, Female, 21, White British, Graphic Arts and Design, sixth form college, 1st generation) Despite the large number of students working, paid employment was reported by some students as never being discussed with students with regard to the positive benefits it could be providing for them, such as the development of their
I don’t think they have a clue, because a lot of us, not a lot, quite a few of us are doing some really, really good relevant things and, I mean, I worked on a tiny one, probably like the most menial thing I’ve done only the other day and I was mentioning it in passing to my friend walking down, we were going on a little field trip to Millennium Square and my tutor heard and he’s like, ‘That’s dead good you’re doing that’. And I’m thinking that’s like a completely pointless one and if he thinks that’s good if he knew like some of the things all of us were doing I think they’d be quite surprised to be honest.
Finally, while there are few parents among the cohort of interviewees, it was felt that, to some extent, the university also failed to recognise caring responsibilities (although as outlined later some parents were given good
individual support from tutors):
My module tutor she knows that I’ve got a child, well she knows it does get in the way as I have had to apply for mitigation for one of my assignments and the reason why I applied for that is because I couldn’t get childcare for one of the exams in January as it finished at 6 ‘o’clock, so she is aware that it can get in the way. It doesn’t always tie in and I think they don’t expect to have a lot of students with kids.
(Student 36, Female, 26, Mixed White & Black Caribbean, Christian, Psychology, FE college, 1st generation) Dispositions of staff In contrast to the experiences above, some staff were seen to be very supportive of participation. Students described the support they had been given by individual members of staff. This was true of ECA that were not linked to specific courses, as well as ECA that were linked closely to the courses
students were undertaking:
... [the president of the African-Caribbean Society] she sees it as very, she just has that kind of personality you know, trying to get people involved in stuff, because its like a small community of Black people in Leeds Met and I think she’s just trying to look out for everybody even though its not tailored towards Black people, anybody can join, but she’s just trying to help people develop.
(Student 36, Female, 26, Mixed White & Black Caribbean, Christian, Psychology, FE college, 1st generation) Like my course tutor she is like really up for, there are a few of us that do sport on our course and she takes a big interest actually in what we do... She is always asking how we get on because I am club captain in athletics and there is another lad that is club captain of rugby union and so I mean she is always, I mean she has been to watch, there is the Carnegie Cup that we hold here every year and they have been to watch that a few times.
(Student 46, Female, 19, White British, Sports, sixth form college, 1st generation) Those with caring responsibilities had very varied experiences. While all carers found it difficult to manage childcare and studies, what was critical was the support given to them by individual tutors. Their recognition of the difficulty of carer responsibilities meant the difference between them being able to attend
lectures or not:
... [the tutors] are pretty good, they understand that from where I live and what times of school it’s, I can’t possibly get in any earlier... next week because it’s school half term that we don’t get, so that’s a case of well the Wednesday and Friday we’ve only got a one hour lecture
22.214.171.124 Building capital through participation in ECA For some students their participation in those forms of ECA they considered fundamental to their future employment dominated their lives and they were single-mindedly focused on building their social or cultural capital at the
expense of all else: