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Placing diversity among undergraduate Geography students in London: reflections on attainment and progression

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Cathy McIlwaine, Diego Bunge

Original languageEnglish
Early online date5 Nov 2018
Accepted/In press24 Sep 2018
E-pub ahead of print5 Nov 2018


King's Authors


This paper explores the idea of ‘place-based diversity’ to examine the nature of undergraduate Geography students’ attainment and progression with a specific focus on gender, ethnicity and socio-economic status. In addressing the empirical neglect of progression when assessing inequalities in achievements among geography students in general and the specific lack of research at the departmental level, the paper contributes to debates on challenging intersectional exclusion within the discipline at a university in London. While it shows that undergraduate Geography no longer privileges male, middle class students in terms of attainment, those from BME backgrounds perform less well. While this is partly addressed by encouraging patterns of higher progression rates among BME students, much more needs to be done. Contributing to existing Bourdieusian analyses of student experiences as well as the role of the university in society, this requires exploration of students’ identities and agency, especially their ‘dutiful aspirational capital’, together with the ‘institutional habitus’ of departments and universities and where they are situated geographically. While departmental support mechanisms have helped in facilitating progression for the disadvantaged, this must be combined with developing more positive diverse role models, curriculum change, and targeted support practices that avoid the ‘black deficit model’ which assumes that BME students are ‘lacking’.

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