Professor of Social and Political Science, University of Lausanne; Visiting Scholar 2017-2018, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto
April 23, 2018
4:15pm - 6:00pm
Hoffmann Room, Adolphus Busch Hall
Contemporary research on access to higher education and degrees tends to present equality in access both as an indication of the degree of democracy achieved by societies and as an instrument of economic competitiveness. Using a socio-historical comparative perspective this talk proposes to tackle this issue by discussing three interrelated dynamics. First, it analyzes how access has been used as a tool of government since the very first centuries of European universities, with its organization being embedded both in the evolving political territorialization and in the structure of social organizations. Second, it sheds light on a shift in the historical referential framing of the organization of access from the exclusion of certain social groups, which was dominant until the 20th century, to promoting the inclusion of all of them, and the building up of a shared cultural model within the context of the European integration. However, the consensus around the inclusion referential does not translate to a linear reduction of inequalities in access. Using the European Social Survey and comparing three generations, a third part of this talk shows that social inequalities in access to higher education appear to have first dropped during the decades after the Second World War, but begun to increase again since the 1990s and that with significant variation between countries. It will seek to explain these variations with two sets of explanations. Macro-social comparison suggests first that the differences mainly vary according to the hold of degrees on the professional and economic situation of individuals. But more broadly, the variations are embodied in distinct inequality regimes influenced by the contractual modalities of the relationship between the state and society, i.e., how different welfare state models articulate with different level and legitimacy of school inequalities.