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Research Case studies

Extending conceptualisations of the diversity and value of extra-curricula activities: a cultural capital approach to graduate outcomes


Funded by the Higher Education Academy we conducted research with staff and students (via semi-structured interviews and a comprehensive survey to all full-time level 2 students) designed to identify the forms of extra-curricular activities (ECAs) students participate in and the value given to this participation by both students and staff.

Our research found that whilst participation in ECAs contributes to graduate outcomes, traditional ECAs are differentially accessed and valued, mirroring the class bias in the sorts of activities that contribute to the formation of general social and cultural capital. However, many students now routinely work part-time, particularly those from less privileged backgrounds; home-based students may continue to participate in 'local' (i.e. non-university) ECAs and women students, in particular, may continue non-paid caring responsibilities.

Our research found that not only does the traditional view of ECAs not capture the diversity of activity taking place, but participation varies among different groups of students; certain forms of ECAs are privileged over others. Critically, some groups of students have difficulty in converting their participation in ECAs into social and cultural capital, and thus into enhancing their employability.

Key papers:

  • Stevenson, J. and Clegg, S. (2011), Who cares? Gender dynamics in the valuing of extracurricular activities in higher education, Gender and Education, First published on: 22 June 2011 (iFirst)
  • Stevenson, J. and Clegg, S. (2010) Possible selves: students orientating themselves towards the future through extracurricular activity, British Educational Research Journal, published on line 24th February, pp. 1-16
  • Clegg, S., Stevenson, J. and Willott, J. (2010) Extending conceptualisations of the diversity and value of Extra-curricular activities: A cultural capital approach to graduate outcomes. Final report. Higher Education Academy. Available online at http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/York/documents/ourwork/EvidenceNet/Clegg_Final_Report.pdf
  • Clegg, S., Stevenson, J. and Willott, J. (2010) Staff conceptions of curricular and extracurricular activities in higher education. Journal of Higher Education, 59 (5), pp. 615-626
    http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/York/documents/ourwork/EvidenceNet/Clegg_Final_Report.pdf
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