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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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Student achievement in a comparative perspective



In previous studies it was revealed that Hungarian denominational schools favourably influence the school career of students with disadvantageous backgrounds. According to our previous results, the school density of student networks with a circle of friends practising religion influenced students’ educational careers to a much greater extent than all other explanatory variables (Pusztai 2006). Therefore, this influence proved to be even stronger than that of cultural capital on school context. We pointed out that these schools reduce the inequality of cultural capital with the help of organic relationships and cohesion between parents and children in the school community. The aim of this paper is to reveal the interpretational capacity of the social capital theory in connection with the differences between students’ achievements. The present study is based on data gathered in the border regions of three East-Central European countries, namely Hungary, Romania and Ukraine. We have revealed that differences do not only originate from the advantages or disadvantages deriving from social background, but according to the social capital hypothesis the form, size and composition of relationships can also explain the differences1.


In this study we try to establish the nature of the correlation between the sector-specific differences in school achievement and the ideological orientation of the school. Previous research showed that denominational schools were more effective (Coleman, Laarhowen et al. 1990, Dronkers 2005, Preuschoff-Weiss 2001, etc), but European research in particular had lacked any subtle sociological approach up until the...

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