Estranged students in higher education : navigating social and economic capitals

Costa, Cristina and Taylor, Yvette and Ecochard, Sidonie and Goodfellow, Claire (2019) Estranged students in higher education : navigating social and economic capitals. Cambridge Journal of Education, 50. pp. 107-123. ISSN 0305-764X (

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Family is widely regarded as a cornerstone of student support. When family support exist as an essential form of social capital making, rupture of family ties places students in a disadvantageous position. This paper focuses on estranged students’ accounts of their experiences of higher education, highlighting how capital dynamics shape their academic trajectories. Based on interviews with 21 estranged students, our research uncovers different dimensions of estranged students’ struggles and successes as they move through academia. This paper explores the social imagination that surrounds the university student, or ‘student experience’, as resting upon family support. We propose that widening participation policies and practices need to be more attuned to the realities that mark estranged students’ experiences, as they are not only impacted by the scarcity of either economic or social capital, but also by the instability of interrelated capitals that contribute to precarious and volatile experiences