Life history approaches to access and retention of nontraditional students in higher education: A cross-European approach


  • John Field University of Stirling, Scotland
  • Barbara Merrill University of Warwick, England
  • Linden West Canterbury Christ Church University, England



Higher education, adult students, retention, Bourdieu, Winnicott


Higher education participation has become an important focus for policy debate as well as for scholarly research. Partly this results from ongoing attempts to expand the higher education system in line with wider policies promoting a 'knowledge economy'; and partly it results from widespread policy concerns for equity and inclusion. In both cases, researchers and policymakers alike have tended to focus on access and entry to the system, with much less attention being paid to the distribution of outcomes from the system. This paper reports on a multi-country study that was aimed at critically understanding the experiences of non-traditional students in higher education, and in particular on the factors that helped promote retention. In doing so, the study straddles the sociology of social reproduction and the psychosociology of learner transformations.


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How to Cite

Field, J., Merrill, B., & West, L. (2012). Life history approaches to access and retention of nontraditional students in higher education: A cross-European approach. European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults, 3(1), 77–89.

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