Quotation Nairz-Wirth, Erna, Feldmann, Klaus, Spiegl, Judith. 2017. Habitus conflicts and experiences of symbolic violence as obstacles for non-traditional students. European Educational Research Journal 16 (1), 12-29.




Despite an expansion of educational opportunities throughout the EU, access to university is still distributed based on social inequality. This tendency can be observed in all EU countries, with Germany, Austria and Slovakia showing particularly low levels of upward mobility. Many working-class students or other non-traditional students never even contemplate entering the field of higher education; others achieve university entry, but fail to overcome the obstacles faced in this field. Drawing on Bourdieu’s theoretical-methodological approach and based on 12 narrative, problem-centred interviews, this study presents a general habitus-oriented analysis of non-traditional university drop outs. We then focus on one case study to describe how the habitus of a non-traditional student is preformed through his family and school background and conflicts with the university field and its institutional habitus requirements. We show that students with a strong sense of their social position and ‘place’ (Bourdieu, 1990; Goffman, 1951) are particularly at risk of feeling like ‘cultural outsiders’ in the higher education field, a situation that leads to increased fears of failure. We conclude with a reflection on the relevance of Bourdieu’s relational thinking for understanding and addressing the underlying mechanisms of social inequality and a discussion of measures necessary to improve graduation rates for non-traditional students in Europe.


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Publication's profile

Status of publication Published
Affiliation WU
Type of publication Journal article
Journal European Educational Research Journal
Citation Index SSCI
Language English
Title Habitus conflicts and experiences of symbolic violence as obstacles for non-traditional students
Volume 16
Number 1
Year 2017
Page from 12
Page to 29
Reviewed? Y
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1474904116673644


Nairz, Erna (Details)
Feldmann, Klaus (Former researcher)
Spiegl, Judith (Former researcher)
Education Sciences Group AB (Details)
Research areas (Ă–STAT Classification 'Statistik Austria')
5403 Educational sociology (Details)
5405 Empirical social research (Details)
5803 Educational research (Details)
5808 University didactics (Details)
5815 Theoretical pedagogy (Details)
5817 Comparative educational science (Details)
5821 Adult education (Details)
5952 Migration research, emigration -, (Details)
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