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Durham University

Department of Sociology

Research Projects

Publication details

Boliver, V. & Wakeling, P. (2017). Social mobility and higher education. In Encyclopaedia of International Higher Education Systems and Institutions. Shin, J.C. & Teixeira, P.N. Dordrecht: Springer. 1-6.

Author(s) from Durham


The impact of participation in tertiary-level education on the movement of individuals up or down the social class structure from one generation to the next (intergenerational mobility) or during the course of a career (intragenerational mobility).

Social mobility refers to the movement of individuals between different positions in the social structure over time. Closed societies are characterized by ascription, whereby social position is assigned early in life and is difficult to change. Contemporary notions of the good society instead emphasize openness and a shift from ascription to attainment, whereby social position is not determined by inheritance but rather by ability, effort, and disposition. Within sociology, studies of social mobility focus on the association between parental and filial social position across generations, typically employing occupational social class as the key measure.

Department of Sociology