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Durham University

School of Education

Research Projects

Publication details

Costa, Cristina Taylor, Yvette, Goodfellow, Claire & Ecochard, Sidonie (2020). Student estrangement in higher education: identity formation and the struggle against stigma. British Journal of Sociology of Education 41(5): 685-700.

Author(s) from Durham


While investigation on family estrangement is growing within academic circles, research regarding the interconnection between experiences of estrangement and higher education (HE) is still limited. Sociological understandings of these issues are even scarcer, with policy interventions and practical guidance forming early interventions in HE. Set within the context of Scotland, this paper explores the experiences of HE students who are estranged from their family, and interrogates the ways students develop a sense of identity in the context of their academic lives. The paper applies Goffman’s work on stigma and identity management in relation to Bourdieu’s concept of capitals to cast a critical eye on the identity formation of estranged students. In doing so, we challenge normative assumptions of what it means to be a university student in contemporary society and urge institutions and policy makers to rethink the complexity of students’ academic lives in more inclusive ways.

School of Education