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Rita's Transformation in The Play "Educating Rita"

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educating rita essay topics

Educating Rita

by Willy Russell

Educating rita study guide.

Educating Rita is one of playwright Willy Russell ’s most well regarded works, as well as one of the most popular works for the theater of the late 20th century. Russell based the play on his own experience of growing up in a working class environment in Liverpool and not attending college until his twenties. It is also influenced by the classic Pygmalion tale in which an older, cultured man shapes an uncouth young woman into a lady. Of his own experiences with education and how they influenced the writing of the play, Russell commented in an interview, “I didn’t set out to write an autobiographical play, but the parallels between Rita and me seem glaring now. I was a ladies’ hairdresser. I left school with one O-level and went back to get the education I’d not had. It was in writing Educating Rita that I realised the power of political theatre with a small p.”  

It was first performed on June 10th, 1980 at the Royal Shakespeare Company Warehouse in London. Julie Walters played Rita and Mark Kingston played Frank . It then transferred to the Piccadilly Theater in the West End.  

The play was turned into a very successful film in 1983 and starred Walters and Michael Caine; Russell adapted the screenplay and Lewis Gilbert directed. Russell famously told Gilbert not to have the two main characters kiss at the end of the film. It was nominated for three Academy Awards and received mostly positive reviews. Another version starring all black actors was proposed in the early 2000s, but nothing came of the project.  

Russell adapted his play for radio in 2009, which starred Bill Nighy and Laura Dos Santos. Ninety minutes long, it was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Boxing Day in 2009.  

Revivals of the play took place in 2010, 2012, and early 2015; the lattermost performance was held in the Liverpool Playhouse. It garnered positive feedback, and on its contemporary resonance Russell explained, “Someone struggling to find something better is universal. Some people say that education is no longer seen as a route to something and that young people look to The X Factor instead, but I think that’s not true. It’s just a headline.”      

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Educating Rita Questions and Answers

The Question and Answer section for Educating Rita is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.

Rita's husband, Denny, resents her foray into a new world that does not seemingly include him. He isn't happy about the idea of Frank as her teacher or her decision to continue her studies. He also resents that fact that she is taking birth...

What does Rita say she wants to study in Act 1, scene 3?

In Act I, Scene III, rita tells Frank that she would like to study art and literature.

What is Rita doing when Frank hears someone at the door in Act 1, scene 2?

Rita is oiling the doorknob.

Study Guide for Educating Rita

Educating Rita study guide contains a biography of Willy Russell, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.

  • About Educating Rita
  • Educating Rita Summary
  • Character List

Essays for Educating Rita

Educating Rita essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of the play Educating Rita by Willy Russell.

  • Rita's Changes in Act 1
  • Exploring Transitions: Educating Rita and Dead Poets Society

Wikipedia Entries for Educating Rita

  • Introduction
  • Plot summary
  • Film adaptation
  • Radio adaptation

educating rita essay topics

“Educating Rita” by Willy Russell: Literature Analysis

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The play, Educating Rita , investigates the way in which a woman, in her youthful age, Rita, has to cope with daily life, struggle, transformation, and different stages as she becomes informed. The play is based on the author’s personal life. From this novel the diverse cultures play a vital role in society and individuals’ social lives. The novel observes that the working class people struggle to break the lower-class circle. The novel discusses about cultural anticipations between the aristocrats against the working-class.

The novel was written in 1980s, but the cultural anticipations of the period are not as significant nowadays as they were. The author was attempting to convey the reflection that once a woman is born into a lower-class culture; it is very difficult to escape from it as people ignore one’s aspirations and judge one owing to her/his culture. However, the novel demonstrates that just because people are in a noble class full of everything; it does not essentially signify that they are satisfied in life. Russell has clearly demonstrated his considerations of a significant- culture and society’s perceptions.

In this novel, Russell discusses the question of women neglect in the society through their negative stereotypes and being considered by men as persons to raise children and assist them in house activities. The author presents a solution to this question by demonstrating through the main character, Rita, that education can upgrade the diminished position and status of women in society (Russell 10). Rita’s education is not limited to academic learning only; her change from the ignorant Rita to the knowledgeable Susan is comprehensive.

The author not only demonstrates the significance of being knowledgeable, but shows how education assists women to prevail over their background and secede from the conventional role anticipated of a woman in the society. Rita sets on a path of self-discovery and is determined to manage her personal existence and create independent opinions. She trusts that education will enable her become independent in her choices by acknowledging that the value of education surpasses just academic learning.

Rita’s past has detained her back and put her in a helpless position. A significant amount of study completed in the 1970s proved that middle class youth were far more likely to excel at school and join institutions of higher learning compared to working-class youth such as Rita. Rita’s education faults are revealed in her remembrance of school life:

“…Boring, ripped-up books, broken glass everywhere, knives, and fights. And that was just in the staffroom. But, they tried their best I suppose, always telling us we stood more of a chance if we studied. But studying was just for the whimps, wasn’t it? See, if I’d started taking school seriously, I would have had to become different from my mates, an’ that’s not allowed” (Russell 17).

Rita wanted to match the way everybody around her lived their lives until she recognized that there was an approach to advance her life. The status battle that forced her is demonstrated through the conversation between them. The author considers education as the only thing that can achieve Rita’s aspiration to surmount the working class environment she was brought up in. Russell believes that through education, Rita can disentangle herself from the conventional beliefs bestowed on a lower-class female in the 1970s. Demands and controls on Rita emanated typically from her family, especially her husband. The author presents men as people who do not consider the decision of women in making choices. This is apparent when Rita’s husband disagrees with Rita’s decision of waiting before conceiving their first baby.

A different pressure that influence’s Rita’s decision to pursue education and oppose adapting to the conventional lower-class female is her mother. She realizes that she was not just pursuing education to benefit herself only; she was learning for all the women like her mother who by no means had the opportunity to do anything for themselves, and who were compelled to fill the customary ‘housewife responsibility’. Education is Rita’s expedition of self-realization to fill the empty space in her life. This journey of self-realization is vital to the play as via learning, Rita looks for the resolutions in existence; something that really pleases her (Russell 33). The novel presents women as people having strong resolve to manage their life by making their own decisions, and this is what they consider education will offer them.

The readers can evidently see how the major subject of the novel changes. The novel has a very powerful and emotional message and demonstrates that when women aspire to transform their life, they can be successful through hard work and determination, like Rita. Russel shows how a woman’s education and success positively changes the life of others. Rita has transformed to become an improved person and has quit her bad practices such as smoking for her own benefit. She has changed from a stylist to a well knowledgeable and esteemed woman in the society. Her husband started with his bad tendency of smoking, but quits smoking and starts writing poetry.

Works Cited

Russell, Willy. Educating Rita. New York, NY: A&C Black, 2013. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2020, March 30). “Educating Rita” by Willy Russell: Literature Analysis. https://ivypanda.com/essays/educating-rita-by-willy-russell-literature-analysis/

"“Educating Rita” by Willy Russell: Literature Analysis." IvyPanda , 30 Mar. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/educating-rita-by-willy-russell-literature-analysis/.

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IvyPanda . 2020. "“Educating Rita” by Willy Russell: Literature Analysis." March 30, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/educating-rita-by-willy-russell-literature-analysis/.

1. IvyPanda . "“Educating Rita” by Willy Russell: Literature Analysis." March 30, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/educating-rita-by-willy-russell-literature-analysis/.


IvyPanda . "“Educating Rita” by Willy Russell: Literature Analysis." March 30, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/educating-rita-by-willy-russell-literature-analysis/.

educating rita essay topics

Educating Rita

Willy russell, ask litcharts ai: the answer to your questions.

Theme Analysis

Social Class and Identity Theme Icon

In Educating Rita , Frank and Rita come from different backgrounds. Frank has lived a comfortable life as a university professor for many years, even enjoying some minor success as a poet in his early days. In contrast, Rita hails from England’s working class and spends long hours on her feet as a hairdresser. Throughout the play, though, Rita wants to shift away from this identity as a young working-class woman. To do this, she reads the books Frank gives her, makes fundamental changes to her personal life, and tries to secure an education that will enable her to transition away from her blue-collar background. In this way, she exalts the idea of becoming an elite intellectual and, in doing so, overlooks the merits of her own identity. Seeing this, Frank tries to dissuade her from discounting her own value. In turn, Willy Russell demonstrates that people often romanticize the idea of change and growth. By showcasing Rita’s eventual realization that she can retain parts of her old identity while still taking on new traits and skills, Russell suggests that people don’t have to entirely renounce their backgrounds to accommodate personal change.

Rita comes to study with Frank because she’s discontent with who she is and the life she leads. She tells Frank that the people she lives with—the people she’s surrounded by every day—have no “culture.” When Frank argues that she comes from a “working-class culture” that deserves its own recognition, she disagrees, saying, “I don’t see any culture; I just see everyone pissed or stoned tryin’ to find their way from one empty day to the next.” In an attempt to rise out of this hollow existence, she seeks out the stereotypical trappings of life as an elite intellectual, thinking that this will make her feel like somebody who isn’t simply living “from one empty day to the next.” After her first semester studying with Frank, she leaves her husband, Denny , acquires new friends, and moves in with an educated roommate named Trish . “She’s great,” she tells Frank. “Y’know she’s dead classy. Y’ know, like she’s got taste, y’ know, like you, Frank, she’s just got it.” According to Rita, education has enabled her to fraternize with people who are “classy”—people she admires for having a seemingly innate sense of “taste.” Simply put, by taking steps toward upward mobility, she romanticizes people like Frank and Trish, wanting badly to assimilate into the life of an intellectual, thereby leaving behind her supposed “working-class culture,” which she thinks doesn’t even deserve to be called a “culture” at all.

Despite Rita’s determination, Frank is hesitant to help her change. When Rita writes an essay about Macbeth that probably wouldn’t pass an exam, Frank insists that she should focus on how “moving” the piece is, insisting that is actually quite good. Instead of turning the essay into something that adheres to the standards of academic writing, he encourages her to see the merit of her own approach. “In its own terms it’s—it’s wonderful,” he says. However, Rita wants to learn to pass exams. In response, Frank says, “But if you’re going to write [that] sort of stuff you’re going to have to change.” Rita asks Frank to teach her how to change, but Frank replies, “But I don’t know if I want to tell you, Rita, I don’t know that I want to teach you. What you have already is valuable. […] Don’t you see, if you’re going to write this sort of thing—to pass examinations, you’re going to have to suppress… perhaps even abandon your uniqueness. I’m going to have to change you.” According to Frank, Rita has qualities worth keeping, though Rita herself has trouble acknowledging her worth. “But don’t you realise,” Rita exclaims, “I want to change!” Given her strong desire to “change,” it’s unsurprising that she proceeds to completely alter her personality, even transforming her voice in order to sound like her new educated friends.

Although Rita enthusiastically takes on the identity of an elite intellectual, she begins to understand by the end of the play that she has romanticized the idea of change. She recognizes that becoming an intellectual doesn’t automatically add meaning to a person’s life, admitting in the final scene that she was overzealous when she first came to Frank with the hopes of abandoning her identity as a working-class young woman. “I was so hungry,” she says. “I wanted it all so much that I didn’t want it to be questioned.” Now, though, she’s capable of “question[ing]” her desire to become somebody new, and this leads her to realize that she doesn’t have to entirely give up her identity in order to educate herself. In keeping with this, Rita gives Frank a haircut as a way of thanking him for educating her, ultimately drawing upon her blue-collar experience as a hairdresser without feeling like it will interfere with her new way of being. In turn, Russell presents the audience with a character who has found a way to merge two identities together, as Rita finally reconciles her working-class background with her newfound academic persona—proof that personal change doesn’t always mean erasing one’s entire identity.

Social Class and Identity ThemeTracker

Educating Rita PDF

Social Class and Identity Quotes in Educating Rita

Well, then you shouldn’t have prepared supper, should you? Because I said, darling, I distinctly recall saying that I would be late…Yes, yes, I probably shall go to the pub afterwards—I shall no doubt need to go to the pub afterwards if only to mercifully wash away some silly woman’s attempts to get into the mind of Henry James or Thomas Hardy or whoever the hell it is we’re supposed to study on this course…Christ, why did I take this on? …Yes, darling, yes, I suppose I did take it on to pay for the drink… Determined to go to the pub? When did I need determination to get me into a pub…?

Mentorship Theme Icon

See, the properly educated, they know it’s only words, don’t they? It’s only the masses who don’t understand. But that’s because they’re ignorant; it’s not their fault, I know that, but sometimes they drive me mental. I do it to shock them sometimes; y’ know if I’m in the hairdresser’s—that’s where I work—I’ll say somethin’ like ‘I’m as fucked as a fanny on a Friday night!’ and some of the customers, they’ll have a right gob on them just ’cos I come out with something like that. […] But it doesn’t cause any kind of fuss with educated people though, does it? Because they know it’s only words and they don’t worry. But these stuck-up ones I meet, they think they’re royalty just because they don’t swear. An’ anyway, I wouldn’t mind but it’s the aristocracy who swear more than anyone, isn’t it, they’re effing and blinding all day long; with them it’s all, ‘I say, the grouse is particularly fucking lovely today although I’m afraid the spuds are a bit bollocks don’t you think?’ ( She sighs .) But y’ can’t tell them that round our way. It’s not their fault; they can’t help it. But sometimes I hate them. ( Beat .) God…what’s it like to be free?

educating rita essay topics

They expect too much. They walk into the hairdresser’s and expect to walk out an hour later as a different person. I tell them, I’m just a hairdresser, not a plastic surgeon. See, most of them, that’s why they come the hairdresser’s—because they want to be changed. But if you wanna change y’ have to do it from the inside, don’t y’? Know like I’m doin’…tryin’ to do. Do you think I will? Think I’ll be able to do it.

I’ve been realisin’ for ages that I was…slightly out of step. I’m twenty-six. I should have had a baby by now; everyone expects it—I’m sure my husband thinks I’m infertile. He’s always goin’ on about havin’ babies. We’ve been tryin’ for two years now; but I’m still on the pill! See, I don’t want a baby yet. I wanna find myself first, discover myself. Do you understand that?

Yeh. They wouldn’t round our way. I’ve tried to explain to my husband but between you an’ me I think he’s just thick! No, not thick ; blind, that’s what he is. He can’t see because he doesn’t want to see. If I try an’ do anything different he gets a gob on him; even if I’m just reading or watchin’ somethin’ different on the telly he gets really narked.

Rita: See, if I’d started takin’ school seriously then I would have had to become different from my mates; an’ that’s not allowed. Frank: Not allowed by whom? Rita: By y’ mates, y’ family, by everyone. So y’ never admit that school could be anythin’ other than useless an’ irrelevant. An’ what you’ve really got to be into are things like music an’ clothes and getting’ pissed an’ coppin’ off an’ all that kind of stuff. Not that I didn’t go along with it because I did. But at the same time, there was always somethin’ tappin’ away in my head, tryin’ to tell me I might have got it all wrong. But I’d just put the music back on or buy another dress an’ stop worryin’. ’Cos there’s always something that can make y’ forget. An’ so y’ keep on goin’, tellin’ y’self that life is great—there’s always another club to go to, a new feller to be chasin’, a laugh an’ a joke with the girls. Till one day, you just stop an’ own up to yourself. Y’ say, ‘Is this it? Is this the absolute maximum that I can expect from this livin’ lark?’ An’ that’s the really big moment that is. Because that is when you’ve got to decide whether it’s gonna be another change of dress or a change in yourself.

Institutionalized Education vs. Experiential Education Theme Icon

There is no contentment. Because there’s no meanin’ left. ( Beat .) Sometimes, when y’ hear the old ones tellin’ stories about the past, y’ know, about the war or when they were all strugglin’, fightin’ for food and clothes and houses, their eyes light up while they’re tellin y’ because there was some meanin’ then. But what’s…what’s stupid is that now …now that most of them have got some kind of a house an’ there is food an’ money around, they’re better off but, honest, they know they’ve got nothin’ as well—because the meanin’s all gone; so there’s nothin’ to believe in. It’s like there’s this sort of disease but no one mentions it; everyone behaves as though it’s normal, y’ know, inevitable, that there’s vandalism an’ violence an’ houses burnt out and wrecked by the people they were built for. But this disease, it just keeps on bein’ hidden; because everyone’s caught up in the ‘Got-to-Have’ game, all runnin’ round like headless chickens chasin’ the latest got-to-have tellies an’ got-to-have cars, got-to-have garbage that leaves y’ wonderin’ why you’ve still got nothin’—even when you’ve got it. ( Beat .) I suppose it’s just like me, isn’t it, y’ know when I was buyin’ dresses, keepin’ the disease covered up all the time.

I’m all right with you, here in this room; but when I saw those people you were with I couldn’t come in. I would have seized up. Because I’m a freak. I can’t talk to the people I live with any more. An’ I can’t talk to the likes of them on Saturday, or them out there, because I can’t learn the language. I’m an alien. I went back to the pub where Denny was, an’ me mother, an’ our Sandra, an’ her mates. I’d decided I wasn’t comin’ here again. I went into the pub an’ they were singin’, all of them singin’ some song they’d learnt from the jukebox. An’ I stood in that pub an’ thought, just what in the name of Christ am I trying to do? Why don’t I just pack it in, stay with them, an’ join in with the singin’?

Well, I did join in with the singin’, I didn’t ask any questions, I just went along with it. But when I looked round, my mother had stopped singin’, an’ she was cryin’. Everyone just said she was pissed an’ we should get her home. So we did, an’ on the way I asked her why. I said, ‘Why are y’ cryin’, Mother?’ She said, ‘Because—because we could sing better songs than those.’ Ten minutes later, Denny had her laughing and singing again, pretending she hadn’t said it. But she had. And that’s why I came back. And that’s why I’m staying.

Rita ( angrily ): What d’ y’ mean be careful? I can look after myself. Just ’cos I’m learnin’, just ’cos I can do it now an’ read what I wanna read an’ understand without havin’ to come runnin’ to you every five minutes y’ start tellin’ me to be careful. ( She paces about .) Frank: Because—because I care for you—I want you to care for yourself. Rita: Tch. ( She goes right up to Frank. After a pause .) I—I care for you, Frank…But you’ve got to—to leave me alone a bit. I’m not an idiot now, Frank—I don’t need you to hold me hand as much…I can—I can do things on me own more now…And I’m careful. I know what I’m doin’. Just don’t—don’t keep treatin’ me as though I’m the same as when I first walked in here.

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Essays on Educating Rita


Original title Educating Rita
Language English
Characters Rita, Denny, Frank, Julie, Susan, Trish, Brian, Tony, Carol, Pete ...
Published 1980
ISBN 9780141182768

Table of Contents

Willy Russell’s Educating Rita is the story of a working-class woman who decides to better herself by enrolling in an adult education class. She meets and falls in love with her tutor, who is a burned-out professor. The story explores the themes of class, education, and relationships.Rita is a 26-year-old hairdresser from a working-class background who decides to take an Open University course in English literature. She is eager to learn and improve herself, but finds the university environment and her fellow students to be alienating. She befriends her tutor, Frank, who is a jaded, middle-aged professor. Frank is initially dismissive of Rita, but he is impressed by her determination to learn.The two form a close bond and Frank starts to mentor Rita. He introduces her to literature and she learns about the world outside her own experience. However, their relationship is not without its problems. Rita is married to an abusive husband and she is pregnant with his child. Frank is also married, but his wife has left him.As their relationship deepens, both Rita and Frank start to question their lives and what they want from them. Rita starts to feel trapped by her working-class background and wonders if she is good enough for Frank. Frank starts to feel suffocated by his empty life and wonders if he is doing anything worthwhile.Eventually, Rita leaves her husband and moves in with Frank. However, their relationship is not without its challenges and they are forced to confront the differences in their backgrounds. The story ends with Rita and Frank’s relationship in a uncertain place, but with both of them having learned and grown from the experience.

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FAQ about Educating Rita

  • Social Class

Educating the Ritas My research into the interaction between habitus and field for working class women on an Access to Higher Education (HE) course

Willy Russell’s (1981) play Educating Rita presents a biography of Rita – a white working class woman who returns to education as a mature student and faces conflict with her sense of self as she embarks upon a journey of self-discovery and erudition. Rita has her eyes and mind opened through her studies yet struggles as she becomes aware of her social class identity, and her role as a working-class wife starts to conflict with the educated woman she emerges into. Rita’s social class identity is reconstructed, and she rejects the gender roles and expectations put upon her by her marriage and class. Rita struggles with how to inhabit her time at university compared to her time at home and at the pub with friends. This causes inner turmoil as she straddles two different worlds. For Rita, education provides power and emancipation but not without a struggle or crisis of identity. Rita’s story is familiar to many of my own students.

My experience as an Access to HE sociology lecturer

As a tutor and lecturer, I see many ‘Ritas’: mature women, who are often mothers, carers and partners returning to education with the ambition of learning and developing themselves academically, and for some qualifying into professional careers such as a nurse, social worker, biologist, and a university graduate. During their time on the course, as education opens their eyes and changes their mindsets, internal conflicts can occur for students who question who they are, who they are becoming and whether the person they are becoming should mean a rejection of their original social class identity or roles ascribed to them as women. This is significant because upward social mobility does not come without sacrifice ( Lee and Kramer, 2012 ) and may lead to changes in relationships with friends and family, and a reflexive struggle with class identity. These struggles and changes are crucial to understanding whether, and how, their identity is changing and if that change creates a divide between them and their social class origins.

The influence of Pierre Bourdieu upon the research

Habitus is a concept developed by Pierre Bourdieu (1977) , and comprises of socially-ingrained dispositions, skills and habits, and the general ways in which the social world is perceived by us as we go about our social lives.

People’s habitus can be altered by new experiences and pedagogical action. It is the point of ‘pedagogical action’ where students taking an Access to HE course may find themselves reflecting upon or struggling with their sense of class identity. When people encounter a new and contradictory field, such as a return to education, an internalisation of divided structures, or ‘dialectical confrontation’ ( Bourdieu, 2002 ) may be caused, and it is at this point a ‘cleft habitus’ may occur, whereby their habitus may become split during their journey from the person they were and the person they are developing into as they progress towards university ( Abrahams and Ingram, 2013 ).

Competing worlds: a cleft habitus

Habitus highlights the role of unconscious and internalised cultural signals that perpetuate the power and impact of cultural differences structured by one’s history and class position in society. Friedman (2013) discuss the psycho-social impacts of a cleft habitus and how the shift in field and habitus may cause psychological pains, generating a sense of being torn between two competing worlds, or creating a sense of being held back from middle class acceptance.

For Access to HE students, their competing worlds are that of their working-class roots, their friends, family and partners, as they progress through education towards university – traditionally considered a middle-class world. According to Bourdieu, class conditions our social circles, topics of conversation, dress, the social spaces people frequent, and the ways we think. Ingram and Abrahams (2016) further the theorising of habitus and consider the powerful ways in which this position can sometimes be a resource, even though it can also be painful. My study will explore whether, and in what ways, students may negotiate the multiple fields of home life and education as they grow academically and culturally yet exist in multiple social spaces at the same time.

Painful negotiations?

Working class identity may not be easily reconciled with educational success, and success can come with great emotional cost through a sacrificing of one’s working class identity. When attempting to be  educationally  successful, working class students may be left struggling with divided loyalties and contradictions, endangering their sense of ‘fitting in’ with either working class or middle-class culture, and dislocation ( Ingram, 2011 ).

During my work as a lecturer I have witnessed students experiencing such ‘painful negotiations’ –  feeling guilty about wanting to spend more time with their new friends at college as they enjoy discussing their modules and become more aware of new information, politics and media, for example. They find themselves learning new vocabularies and discourses relating to their disciplines and seeing the world through new perspectives. Their newfound interests may be a move away from topics of conversations with existing friends and family, and this can be problematic. Gender roles can also play a part in a student’s sense of identity. Many students are mothers and carers, but their course demands their time and attention which means juggling home responsibilities. Feeling as though they are neglecting their mothering role due to time spent on essays and in college, is a common issue. Sometimes relationships suffer as partners may feel left out or left behind as they see their partner changing and raising their aspirations. They may worry where they fit into their partner’s new trajectories, or even feel threatened. This can be difficult and sometimes leads to students giving up their studies as they cannot handle the emotional and physical pressures.

Experiences, aspirations and identities of working class women

The experiences of working class women are therefore the focus of my research. My research seeks to further understand how returning to education has the potential for shifts and changes to people’s habitus. Furthermore, the study will analyse whether Ingram and Abraham’s (2016) consideration of empowerment resonates with the Access to HE students and whether, as Bourdieu (1990:116) suggests, their habitus is a ‘product of social conditionings’ and therefore a history which is ‘endlessly transformed’, raising or lowering their levels of expectations and aspirations.

It is important to gain an understanding of how the students respond to any sense of habitus interruptions, and the extent to which their experiences are mediated by class, race and gender. An intersectional approach to the analysis will therefore be taken.

My research in progress …

So, I have just received ethical approval for my research pertaining to social class in the context of an Access to HE course. Through a Bourdieusian analysis I aim to explore whether working class female students experience a cleft habitus and, if so, whether this may cause struggles during their journey to HE. The question posed is ‘How does an Access to HE course shape the aspirations, experience and identities of mature working class women?’ My next step is to write questions for the focus groups and semi-structured interviews with students at the end of the academic year. What we can take from previous research so far is that social class is more influential in shaping and influencing an individual’s life and social mobility can highlight an individual’s sense of their identity and social class, and aspirations to change. For working class students  social mobility can cause a sense of confusion and tension, or feelings of being torn and sometimes not fitting in. I am at an exciting point in my research journey, anything could happen from here and I hope to update you with my progress in the future.

References and further reading

Abrahams, J. and Ingram, N. (2013). The Chameleon Habitus Exploring Local Students Negotiations of Multiple Fields. Sociological Research Online , 18(4). https://doi.org/10.5153/sro.3189

Bourdieu, P. (1977). Outline of a Theory of Practice . Cambridge University Press.

Bourdieu, P. (1990). The Logic of Practice . Stanford University Press

Bourdieu, P. (2002) Habitus. In J. Hillier & E. Rooksby, Habitus: A Sense of Place (p. 27–34). Aldershot: Ashgate.

Friedman, S. (2013). The Price of the Ticket: Rethinking the Experience of Social Mobility. Sociology , 48(2), 352–368. https://doi.org/10.1177/0038038513490355

Ingram, N. and Abrahams, J. (2016). Stepping outside of oneself. How a cleft-habitus can lead to greater reflexivity through occupying “the third space”. In J. Thatcher, J., Ingram, N. Burke, C. and Abrahams (Ed.), Bourdieu: The Next Generation. The development of Bordieu’s intellectual heritage in contemporary UK sociology . (pp. 141–156). Routledge.

Ingram, N. (2011). Within school and beyond the gate: The complexities of being educationally successful and working class. Sociology , 45(2), 287–302. https://doi.org/10.1177/0038038510394017

Lee, E.M. and Kramer, R. (2012). Out with the Old, In with the New? Habitus and Social Mobility at Selective Colleges. Sociology of Education , 86(1). https://doi.org/10.1177/0038040712445519

Reay, D. (2002). Class, authenticity and the transition to higher education for mature students. The Sociological Review , 50(3), 398–418. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-954X.00389

Reay, D. (2004). ‘It’s all becoming a habitus’: beyond the habitual use of habitus in educational research. British Journal of Sociology of Education , 25(4), 431–444. https://doi.org/10.1080/0142569042000236934

Other articles in the Social Class collection

Introducing april’s theme social class, mapping the margins the new middle-class story in india, class analysis and social recognition some tentative reflections, who can tell a working-class story examining the representational limits of class in i, daniel blake (2016) and beyond, can we free compulsory school systems from class hierarchies, a tale of two cities tackling class inequality in education in brighton and hove, class and materiality in contemporary russia, ‘a sociology of class without feeling’ reimagining the politics of class in sociology.

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