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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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Who gets a degree in Hungarian higher education?



Despite the increasing access to higher education there are some factors which negatively affect students’ careers. It is a well documented fact that parental education and family social status are extremely influential factors, but we extend our explanation to take in spatial and network inequalities. The proportion of students and graduates is lower in underprivileged areas where the losers of the recent economic and social transformation are over-represented. We supposed that differences in students’ achievement in higher education can also be explained by the social networks theory, and more isolated young people have limited aspirations and opportunities. The theoretical background of our analysis is also based on the Colemanian social capital hypothesis, according to which social capital from relational resources can compensate for the reproductive impact of social status on school career. The first steps were also taken to move towards an understanding of the impact of higher education on the future plans and prospects of Hungarian youth.


Higher education attendance and students’ success in obtaining a degree are continually at the centre of Hungarian and international educational policy. In Hungary, the number of students has multiplied fourfold in the decades following the change of the political system. Since 2005, however, the number of students has diminished in both the full-time and correspondence courses. The number of graduates is therefore also diminishing, after a long period of expansion (Pusztai 2011, Szemerszki 2012). At present, Hungary is lagging behind most other...

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