The significance of faith for Black men's educational aspirations

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It is uncontested that British African Caribbean men are minimally represented in elite UK higher education institutions. Even as data demonstrates that African Caribbean males are more likely to study further education than White males and that the proportion of UK-domiciled Black students pursuing higher education has increased since the 2003/04 academic year (ECU, 2014), the representation of Black students throughout the Russell Group remains low. Less than 3% of the entire Russell Group's student population comprised British African Caribbean students in 2011/12 and 2012/2013 (ECU, 2013, p. 203; ECU, 2014, p. 358). However, according to the 2011 Census, ‘Black’ people represent 5.5% (3.1 million) of the total UK population (ONS, 2015). For the few Black men who are successful in attaining acceptance at these exclusive universities, to what assets or capitals do these young men attribute their ability to get to and successful graduate from these institutions? Interviews with 15 Black male students who attended Russell Group universities in England and Wales were analysed and several ‘capitals’ or resources were identified as beneficial to their ability to succeed. Drawing on Bourdieu's work on cultural and social capital, this paper advances the concept of ‘faith capital’ as a unique recognised asset that six of the participants described and reflected upon as being influential on their academic trajectories. Based on findings from the ESRC-funded research Exploring the narratives of the few: British African Caribbean male graduates of elite universities in England and Wales, this paper discusses these six participants’ accounts of their higher education journeys in relation to how they identified faith as a resource that was influential to their academic success.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)875-903
Number of pages29
JournalBritish Educational Research Journal
Issue number5
Early online date27 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - 8 Oct 2017

Bibliographical note

©2017 The Authors.


  • British African Caribbean men
  • achievement
  • aspiration
  • faith capital

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