Negotiating a Sense of Fit in Elite Higher Education: Exploring the Identity Work of “Widening Participation” Students

Abstract

Elite higher education institutions in the United Kingdom and the United States are under increasing pressure to intensify their widening participation (WP) efforts and improve access for students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and other underrepresented groups. Through a case study of business and law students who participated in a WP scheme at an elite university in the United Kingdom, we examine how WP candidates undertake identity work to negotiate a sense of fit in an elite higher education setting. We make two theoretical contributions. First, we show the complex identity work that social minorities undertake to negotiate a sense of fit in diversifying organizations—dynamically backgrounding and foregrounding their minority identity as the situation befits. Second, we illustrate how diversity and inclusion practices form an integral component of a higher education institution’s identity workspace to crucially shape the identity work that social minorities undertake to negotiate a sense of fit, illuminating how an elite university’s inclusive practices facilitate the rhetoric of diversity and enable elite higher education institutions to maintain their exclusive status. We also discuss the practical implications of our findings.

Publication DOI: https://doi.org/10.5465/amle.2019.0358
Divisions: College of Business and Social Sciences > Aston Business School > Work & Organisational Psychology
College of Business and Social Sciences > Aston Business School
Additional Information: © 2021 Academy of Management Learning & Education
Uncontrolled Keywords: diversity,elite institutions,identity work,identity workspace,inclusion,widening participation
Publication ISSN: 1944-9585
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2024 08:12
Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2023 15:38
Full Text Link:
Related URLs: https://journal ... ournalCode=amle (Publisher URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2021-06-01
Accepted Date: 2021-06-01
Authors: Fernando, Dulini (ORCID Profile 0000-0003-3388-3308)
Kenny, Etlyn J.

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