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Pathways to Success in Higher Education

Rethinking the Social Capital Theory in the Light of Institutional Diversity


Gabriella Pusztai

Students are influenced by their peer networks instead of the invisible hand of meritocracy. This statement by David Riesman is still true today. The volume analyses how students make use of social connections and the expanding opportunities offered by contemporary tertiary education. The results show that the resources provided by higher education institutions may be termed social capital, adding a new dimension to literature related to students and the institutional environment.
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Social capital in educational research: interpretations



The international discourse on education politics pays considerable attention to the efficiency of schools, colleges and universities. This study gives a summary of our present knowledge regarding how social capital influences student success and whether schools and colleges can increase the chance of social integration through their institutional impact. We point out the differences between theories using the same concepts but forming separate paradigms that can even serve as bases for alternative hypotheses in empirical research. We can state that the application of the theory about how social capital compensates for reproductional determinants can give new impetus to education research and offers an alternative interpretational framework by raising the question of institutional impact.

Several Theories for One Concept

The concept of social capital is rooted in the sociology of education, and has been widely interpreted in literature. Owing to the multitude of theorists, definitions and empirical research, we intend to restrict our overview to that line of the theory which is relevant to the world of education and which can be regarded as a starting point in education research. The concept of capital, having originated in economics, was extended to denote any means capable of producing profit as early as the 19th century and was used in that sense in the works of such classic figures of social science as Durkheim, Weber and Simmel (Durkheim 2014, Weber 2001, Simmel 1949). It was Hanifan in 1916 who first wrote about the impact...

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