Institutional Habitus, Affirmative Action and Student Dropout in Higher Education: Evidences from two Prominent Universities in India
Rout, Bharat Chandra (2016). 'Institutional Habitus, Affirmative Action and Student Dropout in Higher Education: Evidences from two Prominent Universities in India' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.
By using student data from two prominent universities in India, this paper examines the higher education prospects and challenges of disadvantaged students leading to their drop out. Adopting a random sampling method 482 post-graduate students - 248 from JNU and 234 from UU has been covered in the study. By using student data from these two prominent universities in India, the paper unravels through the HE prospects and challenges of disadvantaged students leading to their drop out. Using Bourdieu’s idea of institutional habitus, the paper deals with how these two different university structures, processes and outcomes provide qualitatively different types of higher education experiences to their students. Students’ pre-university background still significantly determines higher education aspiration and treatment of Disadvantaged Students. Lower caste students and students from rural and remote areas without much access and awareness still negotiate their aspirations for equal treatment in higher education. Students from relatively better off families find it easier and convenient to get integrated to both the social and academic environment of the university. Level of socio-cultural capital inserts tremendous influences on the students’ access, participation and completion in higher education. Higher education experiences of better-off sections and that of disadvantaged students is very different and is widening. The findings suggest that, if implemented and practiced judiciously, university affirmative action provisions have the potential to neutralize the undue effects of socio-economic inequalities and students’ unequal schooling environment and can create an enabling environment and level playing field for disadvantaged students in higher education.
The implications of the findings are wide ranging and can be substantial given the challenges and issues are being faced by students, particularly disadvantaged students in accessing to and meaningfully participating and completing a HE degree. Students’ pre-university experiences still determines HE access and treatment in HE. Socio-economic background of the students such as familial conditions and environments influenced what students consider appropriate in their experiences in HE. Parental education and occupation, though not income, could significantly facilitate their children’s access to and participation in university education. Findings also suggested that students from higher caste and class [putting together higher levels education and employment of parents and possibly urban location] reduced the risk of drop out and had better treatment in HE.
On the other hand, AA formed the basis of disadvantaged students’ access and retention in these two universities. Take away these provision, these students are less likely to be able to make it to HE including the provisions such as financial assistance, remedial coaching and hostel accommodation. While socio-economic conditions of family and level of socio-cultural capital determined access and retention of relatively well-off sections of university students, AA provisions worked against pre-existing socio-economic inequalities and unequal socio-cultural capital for disadvantaged students by providing them a level playing field in HE. The role and contribution of these provisions are undeniably remarkable and government can further innovate on other forms of AA to address the emerging challenges faced by disadvantaged students.