This low-income and low-participating neighbourhoods. Those students coming from

This essay aims to analyse the challenges that students from
disadvantages backgrounds face in their university experience. This segment
will explain the structure of this essay. Section
1.1, which will concisely introduce the topic. Section 2 is split into 4 sectors consisting of financial barriers
affecting circumstances, academic performance, retention rates and social
integration. Section 3 will look at lack of support from family and friends Section
4 will explore the lack of knowledge of support services. Finally, Section 5
will conclude on the challenges that students face.

Kennedy (1997) Defines Widening Participation as “increasing access to
learning and providing opportunities for success and progression to a much
wider cross-section of the population than now” (Kennedy, 1997 cited in
Beckley, 2014, p. 2). Widening participation (WP) aims to target students from
disadvantaged backgrounds. Disadvantaged students consist of the ethnic
minority, those with disabilities, immigrants, and young people leaving care.
Alongside first generation students, low-income and low-participating
neighbourhoods. Those students coming from these backgrounds are identified as
disadvantages as they are under-represented in society. The
under-representation of these groups is not only unjust towards the individual
but also a dominant cause to skills shortages which impede on the economy’s
growth (HEFCE, 2013).

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Today, more than one in three adults possess a university degree
compared to one in 10 adults during mid 60s (Alexander and Arday, 2015 and
David, 2009). However there are still numerous disadvantaged students who are
still not participating in Higher education (HE). Higher education, is all
studies above A-level including foundation, undergraduate and postgraduate
degrees (NAO, 2002). HE brings many benefits to society such as improved social
cohesion, social mobility, social capital, political stability, economic
growth, higher earnings and lessened crime rates (BIS, 2013). Yet today numerous multi-faceted challenges remain for learners
accessing or partaking higher education. These consist of; socio-economic,
cultural, geographical and psychosocial barriers including finance, social
status, social class, inequality, entry requirements, academic barriers and
educational attainment. Nonetheless this essay will focus on four key challenges
of finance, motivation, lack of family support and lack of awareness of support

Firstly, one of the
key challenges that students from disadvantages backgrounds face in their
university experience is financial worries which may arise at the start,
throughout or the end of study (Davies and Elias, 2002) and has been noted as a
citied cause for students discontinuing education (Bourn, 2002; Budlender et
al, 2002; NAO, 2007). Thereby a possible explanation for low retention rates
for disadvantaged students. Surrounding factors that include; academic
expenses, living expenditures, tuition fees, commuting, equipment and childcare
costs (Scottish Government, 2009b).

especially from poorer socio-economic backgrounds face increaser difficulties
than traditional students (Vignoles, 2016). This is supported by Archer et al.,
(2002) who claims that students face higher costs and economic difficulties by
partaking in HE than their working class counterparts. Bourdieu (1986) theory
of economic capital ties in well with the financial difficulties students face
especially from socio-economic backgrounds as their parent’s economic capital reflects
on their education and location. Many students due to parent’s economic capital
benefit from when they are at a school age giving them that extra support to
access and better their attainment as their parents are able to pay for private
tuition etc. this is not the case for disadvantaged students. Middle class are
more likely to access and afford education  however the working class  will struggle and this is especially
difficult for those living in areas where no universities is available i.e.
South-West Devon.


Nevertheless, with
economic capital you can move out or access other universities as well as
travel further as you have the capital to be able to afford the cost.  parents capital arguably shapes your future as
if you have (economic capital) and can access better education then you would more
likely to choose better rated domains rather than what is available on your
doorstep however this is not the case for all especially the disadvantaged students
because of the financial implications this can cause them and their families
(Bourdieu and Passerson, 1979).  Therefore
it can be argued that without economic capital disadvantaged students are more
likely to struggle as it creates further barriers for them. Including if a students
is not able to afford equipment they will not adequately be able to produce
work to their best ability which may affect their overall grade.


Financial difficulty
can cause concerns which may stem to further social, personal and economic
challenges for students (Cooke et al., 2004; Brennan et al., 2005). Students
are more likely to prioritise their needs especially surrounding their basic
needs. This is similar to Maslow hierarchy of needs theory where he states that
only once the basic needs are met, other levels (needs) are looked at this
applies to disadvantaged students as if they are struggling financially with
rent, food and bills they are more likely to leave education and work to fill
these needs rather than seek higher levels of needs by carrying on with their
education (Maslow, 2013). Due to circumstances, students may have to undergo
employment thereby affecting their academic performance alongside their
university experience (Callender, 2008; Hunt et al., 2004). This is because as
the cost of living is ascending, tuition fees have risen, grants and loans are
simply not enough to see students through their course of study.


Subsequently, students
will inevitably see the difference their employment has on their academic
grades, thus effecting their motivation. This suggest that employment itself is
another challenge that students face in their university experience, this does
not include any stress or difficulties that they may have at work i.e. work
load which also could impact their ability to study. Employment can be a
stressful for any individual and having other workloads like studying can be a
handful (Dundes and Marx 2006).  Evidence
suggests that due to heavy load of responsibilities, pupils are not able to
perform to their best potential as a result of working i.e. looking after a
family (Metcalf, 2001;Callender and Wilkinson, 2003; Pennell, 2005). Arguably, financial
pressures can lead to further difficulties such as students’ academic
performance but it can affect a student integration within the university
sphere, integration with peers and tutors, and may also impact retention rates.
Besides financial hardships captivate a student’s time and energy affecting individuals
by decreasing their academic achievement, social integrations and increasing
their feelings of alienation and isolation (Bourn, 2002).


An additional challenge
that disadvantaged students may face in their university experience is the
limited support and encouragement from family and friends and if not received
students were less likely to continue their education (Bartels, 1982).
Disadvantaged students are more likely to struggle especially if they are the
first in the family to access HE. This is because traditional students are
prone to have acquaintance including parents or siblings who have studied and
experienced the university dimension. Therefore they will be better prepared
than their counterparts in many ways including knowing what support is
available, how to access it etc. (Bowl, 2001). This is not the case for the
disadvantaged students who are more likely not having any associate who have
previously experienced university life. These students are less likely to know
about support, advice and guidance that is available to them (Bowl, 2001).When
a student faces discertanity whilst studying either through personal, academic
or institutional factors they are more likely to turn to their acquaintances
than speak to someone from the university domain.

Not only can parent’s
encouragement be a barrier for student but also the lack of parental
familiarity in education can result to lack of support and encouragement from
the household domain (Stratton, 2007; Gayle et al., 2002). They are more likely
to discourage a student from carrying on with their studies. One can assume
that there is strength to Dyhouse, (2002) claim of a “Multiplier effect” to HE,
meaning that if one person of an extended family attends and has had a pleasant
experience they are most likely to advocate HE to family and friends. Research
also implies that the extent of parental education, the more likelihood that
students will accomplish in their study (Martinez, 2009). This indicates that
Universities in order to widen participation further ought to do more to ensure
that first timers have a pleasant experience.

As they will most
likely to promote HE especially to their children who then breaks the tradition
of first in the family to encounter HE. Accordingly, students when undergoing
certain difficulties may not feel they are inadequately supported both at home
and at university, hence may decide to retract their studies rather than
discuss their concerns. Lack of support from family and friends creates
challenges for disadvantaged students by impacting an individual’s motivation,
achievement leading to a negative experience at university.

A further challenge
that disadvantaged students may face is lack of knowledge of services and
support that is available to them. This potentially may hinder them in many
ways including their attainment and retention progression. When students are
facing difficulties they are more likely to face distress as they cannot find
solutions thereby the lack of awareness of services is arguably another
challenge that student are facing (Hunt and Eisenburg, 2010). Traditional
students are more likely to be aware of available support as they have parents
or siblings who have had a degree so they have an advantage compared to
non-traditional students. As a result it can be argued that disadvantaged
students are facing inequality of resources being distributed. Bourdieu (1994)
outlines four species of capital which interlink habitus these include;
cultural, social, symbolic and economic cultural. Class determines cultural
capital and through habitus and fields your environment is constructed, where
habitus would be a central field which are social spaces that dominate groups
within society inhibiting a form of power and therefore produces power capital
in order for the system to work.

Bourdieu argues,
middle class due to their ‘cultural capital’ either through an individual’s
knowledge, parent’s academic background or connection may have an upper-hand
than the working class. Therefore Cultural capital is not equally circulated
through class structure hence accounting for class disparities and inequalities
in educational attainment (Bourdieu, 1984). Upper-class backgrounds have
advantages of being socialised in dominant cultures as groups can convert their
capital to gain better standing in society, for example an individual can gain
academic qualification and change their cultural capital to economic capital.
He identified habitus as a physical state in which capital is collocated in an
individual. Non-traditional students are less likely to have gained from
advantaged networks of social and cultural capital, including those who provide
informal advice surrounding learning through family and friend associates and
intergeneration HE participation (Hinton-Smith, 2012).

If disadvantaged
students are unaware of the available support and services and how to access
them they are more likely to struggle emotionally and academically, become
de-motivated, and inevitably impacting on their academic progression, their
confidence and motivation levels (REAP). Student support services include
wellbeing services, academic writing support, counselling services, mentoring.

Agreeing with Davies
(2013) and Slack (2012) it can be argued that support and guidance is available
however not targeting  disadvantaged
students and by doing this  there is more
likelihood that it would improve retention rates. Studies show that
under-represented students were less likely to access student support services,
however when that were accessed it bettered student outcomes drastically
(Naylor et al., 2013; Zepke and Leach, 2005).

Another challenge
disadvantaged student’s face is lack of social and academic integration.
Non-traditional students have felt ‘disorientated’, ‘frightened’ and
‘apprehensive’ on their initial experience of university (Hinton-Smith, 2012)
Without this integration a learners academic success and university experience
learners struggle to feel a sense of belonging thereby impacting their social
integration within the university (Hussey and Smith, 2010; Tinto, 2012) which
may lead to withdrawal (Deberad et al, 2004). Whilst universities are ensuring
disadvantaged students are supported with admissions in HEI the inequalities
faced with academic integration are not tackled. Students need to feel the
sense of belonging from the social and academic perspective in order to feel
welcome and part of the university domain it can be argued that without the
interaction from the students towards the university will bear on their
university experience (Tinto, 1975; 1987). Circumstances and responsibilities
i.e. employment lead to students missing out on lectures, seminars, engagement
with peers and tutors, not integrating by building wider relationships and
networks etc. (Clegg and Rowland, 2010). Overall this will have a huge impact
on the student’s integration as they will not feel part of the university.
Therefore it can suggested that educational policies must ensure students from
all social strata’s are effectively able to integrate in HE.

There is strength to
Bourdieu (1986) claim that the distribution of cultural, economic and social
capital all interplay with each other and the circulation of these capitals
regulate opportunities for success for practices. Similar to cultural capital
habitus is conveyed from within the home. Whilst cultural capital is linked to
knowledge habitus is a series of attitudes and values and the dominant class
hold the dominant habitus (Bourdieu, 1977) Bourdieu (1990) claims that when an
individual enters a new field, habitus is transformed. Bourdieu and Passeron
(1977) maintain that the middle-class are socialised into the dominant culture
therefore HE is part of their habitus. This is not the same for the working
class especially for those who are the first in the family to enter HE. Working
class students have felt like ‘fish in water’ especially as they have not had
the same habitus as the middle class (Bourdieu and Passeron, 1979)





Lastly, one more challenge
that disadvantaged students may face in their university experience is
motivation and confidence as how a student feels at university will inevitably
impact their experience at university. Many students have noted the first year
is a ‘vulnerable time’ for disadvantaged students (Thomas, 2002; Troxel and
Cutright, 2008) especially to socially integrate and build up confidence,
motivation and see themselves able to successfully complete their study.
However it can be argued that at any point of their study students may lose
confidence and motivation to study, this could be through internal or external
factors which may not only affect their academic performance but might also
change their viewpoint and whether to carry on in education. Therefore it is
essential for student’s confidence and motivation is monitored throughout the
duration of the course. There is strength to Murphy and Roopchand’s (2003)
claim that adequate support is crucial especially for those who lack
self-esteem and academic confidence as without this support it can affect their
experience as well as academic attainment. Many disadvantaged students are
reluctant to apply to HE as a result of lack of academic confidence, then again
students are still concerned about this challenge whilst at university.
Students have stated that they feel like ‘fraud’ ‘inadequate ‘and ‘fear of
being found out’ of not being academically bright than their counterparts
(Wisker,1996; Jackson, 2004).


students may lack confidence and self-esteem not only because they are in a new
environment, increased workload but also they may feel out of place compared to
traditional students academically as well as socially. Academically they may
feel that they are not ‘clever’ enough or not cool enough for the traditional
university lifestyle. It could be said that these issues itself can become
challenges for students. Not achieving well in assignments and exams, and
receiving negative feedback also have a direct impact on a student’s
self-esteem and confidence (Baumeister and Tice, 1985). Alongside one negative
feedback is more likely to negative effect on future academic projects
(Baumeister and Tice, 1985).As a result they are more likely to lose
motivation, feel and accept ‘failure’ 
especially if this happens on more than one occasion and by doing this
they will be more reluctant to aspire and improve their attainment.

This is supported by
Dogson and Wood (1998) who claimed that those with high self-esteem are more
likely to achieve better in the academic setting and deal with failure than
those with low self-esteem and confidence. Learners who are facing other
structural or personal dilemmas may not cope with added burdens together with the
lack of motivation and self-confidence may lead to withdrawal from the course
(Brown and Dutton, 1995). Lack of confidence/self-esteem and motivation can be
seen as challenges for disadvantaged students as it creates barriers for
students affecting their university experience , personal life and choices as
well as academic performance and if not addressed it can lead up to withdrawal
especially if there are other internal and external barriers involved (Brown
and Dutton 1995).


Each social class
families have a diverse access to social, cultural and economic resources as
anticipated this effects the child’s entitlement to resources. Logically,
individuals with increased quality resources have higher chances to come from
higher status backgrounds.  Parents’
cultural capital is strongly linked to parent’s economic capital. Thus
affecting the student’s cultural capital and in return stimulating the
individual’s academic attainment. Erikson and Jonsson 1996, Mayer 2001 have
argued that those who lack the cultural capital of the institution i.e.
university, lack the resources and social capital including networks and
support to attain it will most likely encounter educational loss.

Bourdieu (1977)
maintains that higher social classes (traditional students) are more advantaged
as education is easy accessible for them than the lower classes (Disadvantaged
students), this is a result of the habitus of the lower class is very limited
and does not entail educational aspirations. Therefore whether an individual
succeeds or fails depends on the class you were born into. Yet Reay et al
(2009) disagrees that even though habitus is ‘internalised’ and assimilated
early on it is still able to be changed this is as an individual changes as
they grow and confront the outside world 
their socialisation as a result modifies and adapts.


In conclusion, even today numerous
institutional, situational and dispositional challenges remain those students
from disadvantaged backgrounds face in their university experience. It is quite
alarming that even supposing WP has been effective in widening access, it has
still not been competent in combating the many inequalities students face today
(HEFCE, 2013). Still, it is arguable, that as there are numerous barriers that
students face thus has resulted it being difficult and so time consuming to
eradicate.  Although this essay touched
upon a small proportionate of challenges, there are many others including;
geographical, cultural, structural, socio-economic, financial and psychosocial
challenges that alongside need addressing and tackling in order to widen
participation and access effectively for the under-represented groups of society.
Through these factors further difficulties arise for students that will impact
disadvantaged student’s more than traditional learners whilst in their
university experience. It can be said that one challenge stems to a further
challenge and overall all these challenges hinder retention rates.


Though are a lot of widening
participation policies are aiming to combat the inequalities that prevent
student from applying to HE it can be argued that more needs to be done to
address the challenges students may face whilst in their university experience
as these barriers can potentially arise any duration therefore it is crucial
for universities to engage with students and monitor their wellbeing, their
motivation, their concerns as not only will these ensure students that support
is available alongside improving retention rates.

Education equality before and within
university is essential to endorse social fairness and social justice for every
individual. Unfortunately, there is no one fixed solution to all these
challenges and although widening participation is aiming to address and
overcome them for many years and whilst there have been changes in the
proportion of disadvantaged students entering HE, it has still not been
sufficient in combating all structural challenges. Universities should not only
acknowledge and work on obstructions including looking into admission and
transition processes but also the challenges that disadvantaged students may
face whilst in their university experience including making them aware of the
available support and services that they can access and that they may at some
point of their study require.  It must be
understood that there is no one solution to tackle these barriers as each
obstacle will need to be addressed individually. Tackling educational
disadvantage by addressing and monitoring in relation to access to resources,
lack of advice and support is crucial as it hinders student’s chances to
success. Chowdry, (2010); Cunha and Heckman (2007); Budd, (2017) mutually claim
that these socio-economic disadvantages do not emerge just from the high-status
universities but in fact prime from education early on. Thus implying barriers
ought to be addressed before, during and after university. However it can be
argued that the sole responsibility to address these challenges should not be
fundamentally thrown on universities.