An ethnographic study of career aspirations amongst students studying level 3 sports courses at a further education college in England

Daniel Connolly, Adam B. Evans, Jacquelyn Allen-Collinson

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


There is currently a dearth of research into how sports students’ career aspirations are formed during their post-compulsory education. This paper is based on an ethnographic study of sport students’ habitus and career aspirations. Two first-year cohorts on two different courses at a Further Education College in England were selected to participate in the in-depth study. The paper provides an analysis of the contrasting subcultures emergent within these groups, and how specific cultural practices affect students’ career aspirations vis-à-vis the current global recession and economic crisis.

Utilising a Bourdieusian framework, the study is based upon formal and informal (auto)ethnographic observations and semi-structured group interviews, and aims to unearth the internalised, often latent cultural practices that impact upon these students’ diverse career aspirations in the field of further education in sport.

The paper reveals how the two cohorts are situated within a complex field of relations; where struggles for legitimisation, kudos, academic accomplishment and numerous forms of lucrative capital are habituated. Despite the two courses being of equivalent academic level, the scholastic and career aspirations of the two groups appear to differ considerably. One cohort is eager to demonstrate aspirations of progression into Higher Education, whereas the other cohort appears content with achieving the lowest grades “required” to pursue full-time employment. The study will offer academics and practitioners valuable insights into both the career aspirations of these students, and also their attitudes towards their educational field and their contrasting work ethics.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - Aug 2013
Externally publishedYes
EventESA Conference 2013 - University of Turin , Turin, Italy
Duration: 28 Aug 201330 Aug 2013

Academic conference

Academic conferenceESA Conference 2013
Other11th Conference of the European Sociological Association


  • Career aspirations
  • Further education
  • Further education students
  • Ethnography
  • Bourdieu


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