Author: Ceryn Evans, Cardiff University

Day One – Tuesday 25th June

Strand – Identity and Place

Session One: 11.30am – 1pm

A body of research has illuminated the ways in which the transition to higher education (HE) is a costly and thus ‘risky’ (emotionally and financially) choice for non-traditional students (Archer and Hutchings 2000; Patiniotis and Holdsworth 2005).  ‘Risk’ is commonly conceived of as being associated with the costs and benefits associated with HE which are unequally distributed across social class. There has, however, been less research which has considered how the ‘place’ in which young people live, and young people’s emotional relationships with ‘home,’ may be implicated in the experience of ‘risk’ and emotional ‘costs’ of embarking on HE.

Through qualitative interviews with young people (age 16-18) living in two locations in South Wales, the study reveals the importance of place, in particular, young people’s emotional attachments with ‘home’ for their university choices. It suggests that the experience of ‘risk’ (particularly ‘risk’ associated with the emotional costs of embarking on HE) has a social and spatial dimension. ‘Risk’ is not simply related to the socially unequal distribution of costs and benefits of HE, it also has a geographical dimension, related to a sense of belonging to a specific geographical place and sense of national identity.

The paper suggests how we might better conceptualise youth transitions through attention to the way in which intellectual and affective interests intersect in decisions relating to university choice, and are implicated in processes of social and cultural reproduction.

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