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«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 ...»

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(Student 28, Female, 20, White British, Art, FE college, not 1st generation)... my dad was my swimming coach... so my dad was like trying to push that on me which is a good thing, but then it kind of fizzled out towards the end when I had like a lot more school work on and stuff.

But he said it would definitely be a good thing to put on especially with Leeds Met because like they are sports based up in Headingley.

(Student 7, Male, 20, White British, Graphics, FE college, not 1st generation) A second clear influence on individual student habitus was how schools had encouraged students, to a lesser or greater extent, to participate in ECA. As referred to above when defining ECA students were strongly influenced by the habitus of the school. It was clear that schools saw participation in ECA as being highly beneficial: for health reasons (physical and psychological), for the development of transferable skills (team work, organisation, time management The Higher Education Academy 47 etc.) and in support of applications for employment and for further and higher education. Very few students identified their schools as not having encouraged

them to take part in sporting and/or cultural activities:

I had piano lessons which were an external thing, when I was a bit younger in secondary I did dancing which was also external but other than that it was all school stuff... I did the Duke of Edinburgh award so, it’s walking I don’t know if that classes as a sport but they taught you all the different other skills as well, so we did things like first aid and map reading so quite a lot of things covered in that and then I went to an art group once a week when I was at in A-level year...

from the age of 11 to 16 sport was quite heavily pushed as a good thing to get involved with a sort of health and teams idea.

(Student 28, Female, 20, White British, Art, FE college, not 1st generation)... at school we were told it was a really good idea to get involved in extra-curricular activities because they would help us develop skills that a) looked good on a CV and b) just help us in life.

(Student 2, Female, 23, White British, No religion, shared house, English Literature, FE college, not 1st generation)... as you got to sixth form it was, this will look good on your personal statement, for getting into Uni, but then that was towards the latter half of first year, sort of year 12, when you started thinking about UCAS forms and applying to University... I think we all knew that it was the value of making new friends and getting yourself out and doing something you enjoy.

(Student 16, Female, 19, White British, family home, English & History, sixth form college, not 1st generation)... we were made aware that it was quite good to mention if you did anything outside of school if you did Duke of Edinburgh or if you had any plans to do this within the year between filling in the form and going to University... you just got told to talk about all the things you think are useful like even if you have driving lessons or you have passed your driving test.

(Student 3, Female, 21, White British, PE & Sport & Exercise Science, FE college, 1st generation) However, many students commented that it was often one particular member of staff who had supported and encouraged their progression to higher education rather than it having been an institutional approach. Individual members of staff were regarded as being highly influential in shaping student dispositions, and students commented on how much support they had been given from schools in

crafting their applications to higher education:

I went mainly to my form tutor at school and my head of year who I had a very good working relationship with and I used to sit down with him and go right, what do you think I should put in here and he said, I mean they had everything on file everything that I had done, throughout the years yes, so my form tutor said well you did this and

–  –  – The influence of habitus and capital on participation in ECA at university It was clear then some students understood the ‘field’ and what was involved if they wished to be successful in it. This was apparent from how they had

approached applying to university in the first place:

Feels a lot like sort of like, like you are playing a game with the person who is at the other end like you are trying to justify why they should pick you and they are trying to justify why they should, so it is like I don’t know like a battle in words isn’t it, trying to point out to them yes you know, it is trying to … just not give them any excuses to say no.

(Student 49, Male, 20, White British, PR, other university, not 1st generation) In addition, the social and cultural capital possessed by students on arrival, inherited from the family and reinforced through the habitus of the school, strongly influenced decisions about whether to participate in ECA, as well as ease of participation.

Family was considered to have played an extremely strong role in the building of both habitus and cultural capital that together facilitated participation in ECA.

The knowledge and skills students possessed made them successful in the ‘field’. ‘Embodied’ cultural capital, which includes “long-lasting dispositions of the mind and body” (Bourdieu, 1986, p. 243), was clearly linked to individual habitus. This can be clearly seen in several ways. First, some students had the pre-existing knowledge of the types of ECA that might be available to them at university – gained from family and friends – and on arrival actively sought out these opportunities. This contrasts with those students who were unaware of what might be offered and were also waiting for others to draw attention to


I keep looking at volunteering and it’s something that I want to do so much but I really cannot fit it in and I wouldn’t even know where to go to get involved in CALMS [Community Action at Leeds Met] and the only reason that I know that it’s called CALMS is because it’s on the board as I walk to the SU bar and apart from that I never got given a starter pack for anything to do with extra-curricular activities, never got told whether the little stalls are busy that you could sign up and I think that’s a major problem in people signing up to them they don’t know where to sign up for them so that’s probably mainly to do with peoples involvement in them.

(Student 9, Female, 19, White British, Social Sciences, sixth form college, 1st generation) Second, many students had developed the ‘disposition’ of mind to make it easier for them to actively seek out new opportunities – including confidence, The Higher Education Academy 49 self-esteem, motivation and commitment to an activity. Here parents were considered critical with regard to building a secure platform from which students

felt able to participate in ECA:

Kind of like my mum and dad do help me out a lot with these kind of things just general like backing me up like just building my confidence saying ‘oh you have done this and that already’... remind me about things when I am a bit down or whatever or if I have forgot things, so that helps out definitely a lot, yes and I help out like my brothers and stuff with that kind of thing if they ever need it.

(Student 7, Male, 20, White British, Graphics, FE college, not 1st generation)... being committed to something and sticking at it, I think I’ve had that drilled in since an early ages, you know, if you do something you do it you don’t do it half heartedly, you either do it or you don’t do it, you don’t faff about with it... they don’t faff, and I hate faffers. That probably comes from them... I don’t have very much patience or tolerance... that’s probably from them. Well it’s easier and better if you just get things done isn’t it?

(Student 56, Female, 21, White British, Methodist, Events Management, sixth form college, not 1st generation) Finally, students had previous experience of being involved in social groups or networks through participation in ECA, which meant that they immediately felt comfortable in joining clubs and societies and participating in similar activities once at university.

Taken together, the strong influence of parental and school habitus on the individual habitus of students meant that on arrival at university many students

immediately signed up to participate in ECA:

All my family are active people, my Dad’s always encouraging, well not encouraging me, it wouldn’t bother him if I didn’t do it, but I know he likes to see me active and he has always been there when I was playing rugby and anything else, so yes... and as soon as I started here I joined the rugby team.

(Student 15, Male, 20, White British, Graphic Arts & Design, FE college, not 1st generation) The forms of ECA valorised by employers Influenced by family and school, the majority of students we interviewed considered that participation in ECA in general was highly regarded by employers. They were aware that employment was highly competitive and that employers were able to choose from among a wide pool of graduates. They were also aware that employers looked for examples of participation in ECA as providing evidence that students were ‘more than just a degree’, but instead

were well-rounded holistic people with a range and breadth of experience:

My Dad has always said when he hired people that he would look more towards their extra-curricular activities. He always looked more towards those activities than actual academic skill, he said he would rather have someone who had a 2:1 and lots of activities than a first

–  –  –

I think it’s a big thing. I think extra-curricular activities are a big thing to employability. I don’t whether it’s because I’ve always done it so I’ve always thought it was important. I don’t know I just think if I was an employer I’d like someone who does other stuff just apart from their work, but that’s just my view so other people might say they like people who are just devoted to their work, I don’t know.

(Student 55, Female, 20, White British, Nursing, sixth form college, not 1st generation) However, it was clear, through further discussion, that some forms of ECA were more highly valued than others, with volunteering, paid work and sports activities considered the most highly valuable to employers and participation in faith, caring and political activities, the least. The forms of ECA valorised by students Volunteering Regardless of whether students were participating in volunteering activities or not, volunteering was regarded as the most valuable form of ECA by the students we interviewed. Volunteering was considered to be highly valued by employers and so would help their future employability. Students considered that employers valued participation in unpaid activity more highly than paid activity because it demonstrated a level of motivation, commitment and dedication to a job than could not be simply attributed to being paid to go to


Yes, some of them are probably more valuable than others. It does depend on the job that you are doing, but certainly … I would imagine that volunteering would be very well looked upon, because it shows a sort of self discipline and willingness to go the extra mile kind of thing. So that would be really favourably looked on, I would imagine.

(Student 52, Male, 19, White British, Politics, sixth form college, not 1st generation)... there are certain things like volunteering which whether they give you skills or not they give just look good on your CV... I always think volunteering does look good on application forms and when I have had to look over application forms for people that I have worked with in different jobs. If you know they have got, if it is just volunteering then maybe not but if it is volunteering in, you know, together with work experience and education then yes it does look good. Because that is someone who can actually put their time into doing something.

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