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Chinese rural students’ social mobility experiences through higher education across four decades: from 1980s to 2010s

Chen, Jiexiu; (2021) Chinese rural students’ social mobility experiences through higher education across four decades: from 1980s to 2010s. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

In the Chinese context of a stratified education system and significant urban–rural inequality, rural students generally face constrained possibilities for social mobility through higher education. Despite these structural constraints, some exceptional rural students manage to get themselves enrolled in urban universities. Drawing on 50 rural students’ life history interviews conducted in Beijing, Shanghai, and Ji’nan in 2018, I adopt Bourdieu’s conceptual tools to explore these students’ educational trajectories before, during, and after university. The findings of this thesis suggest that, with the joint influences of rural family, community, schooling, and local context, participants generally have a strong desire for higher education, which is uniquely generated in the rural field. I argue that chiku (eating bitterness) constitutes the core of dispositions of rural habitus and enables rural students to overcome hardships and transcend urban–rural inequality through education. At the micro-level, I suggest that rural students’ negotiations between the ‘academic self’, formed and strengthened in the schooling field, and the ‘rural self’, derived from the rural context, generate a dynamic nexus of obedience and resistance, constituting the core of their unique habitus. After entering university, I find most of the participants in this research experienced varying degrees of misfit, caused by habitus–field disjunctures, on their migration from the rural to the urban field, including various manifestations of hysteresis effects and emotional suffering. Drawing on participants’ narratives about their daily life in university, I argue that social institutions like banji (class) and dorm provide shared social spaces for rural students to mix with their urban peers. Moreover, I suggest that the struggle for recognition is at the centre of rural students’ experiences of adapting their rural habitus in accordance with the field of the urban university. After the university, I explore rural students’ experiences of settling down in the city as well as their identity struggle between their rural origins and their current status as urban residents. Furthermore, I propose four orientations of habitus transformation to explore the continuity and change in rural students’ transforming habitus.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Chinese rural students’ social mobility experiences through higher education across four decades: from 1980s to 2010s
Event: UCL (University College London)
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2021. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Education, Practice and Society
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10129744
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