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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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In our research we intended to survey the role played by social connections when students make use of the expanding opportunities offered by contemporary higher education. The contribution of institutions as chains of social relationships to students’ progress was examined from an educational-sociological perspective. Our volume of studies consists of three parts, each part containing three studies. As a summary of the most important findings of our research, we first present our most important observations related to the region concerned. We then follow with the results, which led us to the conclusion that the resources provided by higher education institutions, usually referred to as campuses, may be termed social capital. In the third chapter, we publish our conclusions related to the success and efficiency of students.

The region involved in our research

This research is justified because in Central and Eastern European countries social interest in higher education increased dramatically after the collapse of the communist regimes. As a consequence, the horizontal and vertical expansion of the system took place much more rapidly in these countries than in the Western European nations. At the same time, the number of potential students diminished, generating a competition among higher education institutions. For institutions in underdeveloped regions and those that have a recruitment basis smaller than the average, the changes meant that the number of students coming from families of lower social status has increased. Students with parents with low qualifications, those who study in vocational secondary...

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