Engineering access to higher education through higher education fairs
Paris : Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Evaluation of Public Policies
LIEPP Working Paper : 22
Evaluation, Politiques publiques, Education, Sociologie
Text from van Zanten A., Legavre A. “Engineering access to higher education through higher education fairs”, in Goastellec G., Picard F. (ed.) The Roles of Higher Education and Research in the Fabric of Societies, Leuven, Sense Publishers, 2014 (in press). Transition to higher education is a major social process. This transition has been mostly studied by French sociologists of education and higher education from perspectives focusing predominantly on the role of the socio-economic status, academic profiles and different tracks followed by secondary school students (Merle 1996, Duru-Bellat and Kieffer 2008, Convert 2010), and, to a lesser extent, on the types of secondary schools attended (Duru-Bellat and Mingat 1998, Nakhili 2005) and the local higher education provision (Berthet et al. 2010, Orange 2013). Although these structural determinants play a major role in explaining significant regularities, they provide more powerful explanations for individuals representing the extremes of the different variables considered, leaving room for the influence of other major factors for those students in intermediate situations. In addition, even in the case of students occupying extreme positions, structural perspectives better explain the distribution of students between different higher education tracks than they do between institutions and disciplines. In this chapter, we adopt a perspective that we see as complementary to and interacting with the perspective centred on structural determinants by focusing on the role of the devices that mediate the exchanges between students and higher education institutions, and more specifically on one device: higher education fairs. Our purpose in doing so is not only to document how these various devices frame, in ways that remain largely unexplored by researchers, exchanges between providers and consumers of higher education but also to point out – and further explore in future publications – how these devices, and the specific features of fairs, contribute to the reproduction and transformation of educational inequalities in access to higher education (Benninghoff et al. 2012).