Higher Education Quarterly

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Problematising social mobility in relation to Higher Education policy

Abstract This paper problematises the concept of social mobility through an exploration of it in relation to Higher Education policy in England. Based upon a content analysis of a number of key policy documents from distinct eras, it identifies definitions and understandings of social mobility within them, exploring how such references have changed over time, and critiquing the differences between the imagined ideals of what policy rhetoric seeks to do and the reality of policy implementation. In particular, it considers the characterisation of social mobility as an individualised concern; it positions aspirations of improving social mobility within the market of Higher Education; and it ultimately asks whether Higher Education can solve the government's social mobility problem.

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