Social injustice in students’ access to higher education

By on 31.01.2017 in Uncategorized
Sonja Kosunen, University of Helsinki

Sonja Kosunen, University of Helsinki

Entrance-examination-based competition for study positions in Finnish higher education is harsh, and nowadays fewer than one in four applicants are admitted according to Education Statistics Finland (2015).

“The admission process seems to produce a socio-economically biased student body in Finnish universities, which of course contradicts the old Nordic principle of providing every applicant with equal access to education – regardless of economic resources and social background. Something happens there in between. We need to investigate further, which mechanisms are behind this inequality,” says senior university lecturer Sonja Kosunen, University of Helsinki.

Sonja is currently leading a research project Privatisation and Access to Higher Education (PAHE), which focuses on the effects of privatisation in and of public education as well the mediating mechanisms in the higher education admission. PAHE is a collaborative project with researchers from the University of Helsinki and University of Turku, Finland.

Sonja has joined forces with Professor and Research Director Agnès van Zanten, CNRS/SciencesPo, France, who is also a member of the Nordic Centre of Excellence ‘JustEd’. Agnès is leading a large comparative research project called Transition to Higher Education in different Welfare Regimes, in which systems in Finland, France and Spain are compared. PAHE is a part of this international comparison.

The challenging access to higher education

There are several mediators and guidance devices, such as student counselling in secondary schools and a tuition-based preparatory-course market, that shape and guide the way in which applicants from different social backgrounds seek access to higher education.

“What is rarely discussed in Finland is the role of economic capital in the process of gaining admission at different levels of education. The processes of privatization in public education and of public education with regards to social justice in education should be studied further,” states Sonja.

The PAHE project

 The research task within this Privatisation and Access to Higher Education (PAHE) project is to find out how the social space of educational choice is constructed in relation to different public and private actors in the higher education field, and to investigate how the logic of the field influences applicants’ choices of and access to higher education with regard to their social background. Two concrete higher education perspectives characterize this research: the process of transition (applicant’s point of view), and the different processes of privatization in the field (the market viewpoint).The project participates in the academic debate around access to higher education and its relation to educational equality and equal opportunities.

Current members of PAHE are Sonja Kosunen (University of Helsinki, associate researcher at SciencesPo Paris); Nina Haltia, Suvi Jokila, and Ulpukka Isopahkala-Bouret from the University of Turku, Juhani Saari (Otus), Esa Halmkrona, Marju Töyrylä and Hanna Ahtiainen from the University of Helsinki.



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About the Author

About the Author: Journalist currently working as Communications Specialist at the Nordic Centre of Excellence "Justice through Education in the Nordic countries" and in NordForsk's programme "Education for Tomorrow". .


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