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Working Class Academic Capital by Teresa Crew


The image of the “proper academic” remains a white, middle-aged and middle-class man (Skelton, 2004). Ongoing attempts to achieve gender and ethnic diversity in academia highlight the lack of equivalent focus on the class background of faculty members.

However, grammar schools alongside widening participation policies have led to greater numbers of ‘working class academics’. There are difficulties with this term, for instance reliable statistics on the class origins of academics are unavailable.

Also, the descriptor ‘working class academic’ can be perceived as being contradictory i.e how can you be an academic, and still be working class? (Wakeling, 2010). Much of the existing literature on the academic success of this cohort suggests that alienation, imposter syndrome and micro-aggressions are common experiences (See Warnock, 2016 for an overview).

While Haney’s (2015) research depicts the process of mobility into white collar professions such as academia, as traumatic. Yet my current research with 75 working class academics which takes an intersectional approach, presents an heterogeneous group with diverse experiences of academia. It also illuminates their additional forms of knowledge and experience i.e aspirational, social/familial, linguistic, navigational and resistance capital. This paper ends with how ‘we’ can move forward.

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Ragged University is in partnership with the Working Class Academics conference sharing its ideals and love of open intellectual spaces

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