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Two trajectories, one destination: Exploring Chinese urban and rural students’ access to Chinese elite universities

XU, YANRU (2020) Two trajectories, one destination: Exploring Chinese urban and rural students’ access to Chinese elite universities. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This study explores Chinese urban and rural students’ access to Chinese elite universities. Chinese urban and rural division is decided by the hukou system (household registration system, 户口). It has largely advantaged urban communities and discriminates against rural communities across a range of opportunities, including children’s education. When explaining educational disparities between the privileged and the less privileged in and outside China, much research has adopted the capital approach based on Bourdieu’s social reproduction theory. It limits our understanding of how the less privileged students achieve academic success. Closely related, the sorts of roles less privileged parents play in their children’s academic success have been investigated less.
This study adopted a qualitative research design. It investigated 26 Chinese students (15 urban and 11 rural) who were first-year undergraduates in four Chinese elite universities alongside the testaments from 20 Chinese parents (11 urban and 9 rural). It explores students’ pre-university life stories through a total of 46 semi-structured interviews and small-scale background questionnaires.
The findings suggest that Chinese urban and rural students experience two differentiated trajectories before their entry to one destination: Chinese elite universities. The findings partly echo the capital approach to show the relationship between parents’ capitals and their children’s education. However, the findings illustrate Sharon Hays’ proposal regarding two types of dialectical relationships between social structure and human agency: structurally reproductive agency and structurally transformative agency. Specifically, Chinese urban and rural parents play differentiated roles in their children’s schooling processes up until their access to Chinese elite universities within and outside families. Three main contributors to Chinese rural students’ academic success against the odds are rural parents, rural students and rural teachers. Chinese urban students accumulate various advantages while rural students accumulate various disadvantages on their pathways to Chinese elite universities within and outside school time.
This study firstly enriches the understanding of urban and rural students’ access to elite universities in the Chinese context with implications for a wider global sphere. Additionally, partly through the data showing the power of Chinese rural parents’ language in making positive contributions to their children’s access to Chinese elite universities, this study contributes to a shifting of the deficit view of less privileged parents’ roles in their children’s education.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Education, School of
Thesis Date:2020
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:01 Jul 2020 09:15

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