Article: All PhDs are equal but.... Institutional and social stratification in access to the doctorate

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Based on in-depth interviews with doctoral students across different types of English higher education institutions, this study explores existing and perceived barriers to entering doctoral study. Previous research in widening participation and higher education access has neglected this level. Although the PhD is the highest educational qualification, there appear to be quite distinct, classed pathways in access to and through the doctorate corresponding to patterns of institutional stratification. PhD students do not comprise a homogenous elite; rather we detect at least three ideal-typical pathways to the doctorate. These pathways illustrate disparities among the community of PhD students, both between and within universities. Marked differences in funding, facilities and support carry consequences for individual chances of completion and the doctoral experience. Social and institutional stratification appear to work hand-in-hand in determining one’s chances for achieving the ‘promise’ of the PhD, such as secure university employment and similar highly-skilled work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)982-997
Number of pages16
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology of Education
Issue number7
Early online date15 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 25 Oct 2018

Bibliographical note

© 2018 informa uK limited, trading as taylor & francis group. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details


  • access
  • doctoral education
  • educational transitions
  • institutional stratification
  • social class

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