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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 campus settings



According to research into the institutional contribution to students’ progress it is clear that it is not primarily the structural and infrastructural conditions of an institution of higher education that effectively support the success of a student. Among the theories that might function as interpretative frameworks for the campus impact research findings available on the subject the most influential are Astin’s theory of student involvement (Astin 1993), Tinto’s theory of student integration (Tinto 1993), Bourdieu’s theory of reproduction and its improved version, the theory of institutional habitus (Tierney 2001), as well as Coleman’s concept of social capital (Coleman 1988). As a result of our previous research findings, we give priority to the effects of informal ties (Pusztai 2009, 2011). While in Tinto’s interaction model it is the network of interpersonal links that forge students into a community, in Coleman’s functional community concept shared values accomplish the same and maintain integration.

The Many Faces of Diversity in the Student Body

As regards the diversity of the student community, some of the literature discusses the heterogeneity of students in terms of sex, social origin, ethnicity and religion (Hu–Kuh 2003, Harper–Quaye 2009). Studies in educational sociology and the pedagogy of higher education are consistent in terming certain groups non-traditional if they show new features in the above respects or are under-represented compared to their social significance. The concept of non-traditional student does not have a stable semantic field; its meaning keeps expanding....

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