The pre-university pathways of disadvantaged students for gaining entry to university study

13 Jun 2017

This article focuses on the pre-university access pathways of disadvantaged first-generation students studying at a South African university. Based on data collected via qualitative methods, it draws on findings from a study of purposively selected students at a university in the Western Cape Province. It explores the ways they access and gain admission to the university. Combining Bourdieu?s (2006) notion of ?cultural capital? with Yosso?s (2005) notion of ?community cultural wealth?, the article attempts to understand how these students use the resources in their families and communities to gain entry to the university. The article shows the decisive role that family capital and productive township networks play in the students? university admission pathways. Their ability to navigate around the ?darker? aspects of their impoverished communities and establish peer and community support networks is crucial in making their desire for university study a reality. The article illustrates the longer and circuitous admission routes that they take to gain university entry, one key consequence of which is that they adjust their aspirations to settle for less prestigious university programmes. Settling for programmes of ?lower? prestige was a way of securing admission to the university.