Greek Roma in Higher Education
: A Qualitative Investigation of Educational Success

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Much of the research that deals with Roma education in Greece concentrates on the high dropout rates and low attainment of this community, contributing towards a negative view of Roma’s educational achievement. In contrast, this study investigates the trajectories of twenty Roma who can be regarded as educationally ‘successful’ as they have all entered higher education.
In this qualitative study, in-depth interviews were undertaken with these participants to elicit their experiences and accounts of what contributed to their educational success, their perceptions of success and their suggestions on how to improve educational provision for the Roma in Greece. The sample reflects Roma heterogeneity in Greece in terms of socio-economic status, locality and gender in particular. Two theoretical contributions frame this study. Bourdieusian concepts of habitus, capital and field are deployed as key analytical tools to illuminate the participants’ family backgrounds, their pre-university educational experiences and the forms of support that facilitated their access to higher education. This study also draws on Fraser’s economic, cultural and associational dimensions of social justice to explore the participants’ perceptions and experiences of success and understand what the participants propose for developing suitable policies for Roma’s future education in Greece. The findings are organised into three main clusters. The first set of findings deals with the factors that contributed towards the participants’ uptake of higher education. Supportive parenting and teacher mentoring made a significant difference to the participants’ educational success, according to their accounts. For those participants from a more privileged background, accessing higher education was experienced as being more the norm. The second set of findings suggests that individual experiences and beliefs underpin the participants’ constructions of success and educational success. There is a focus on the female participants’ views and experiences as they sometimes face additional difficulties in accessing education because of intersections of sex/gender and Roma culture. Male and female participants highlighted the role that aspects of traditional culture still play in shaping educational success, mainly with reference to a longstanding pattern of early marriages in the community. However, the gender gap inside the Roma community is being mitigated, according to the participants. The final set of findings relates to the participants’ recommendations about how best to support Roma pupils in Greece. Some interventions addressing the Roma were suggested but only on a short-term basis, in order to benefit the Roma without adding to their further marginalisation. Tackling poverty related issues for the whole student population was prioritised over offering any targeted provision to the Roma as a separate group. The study concludes by discussing key research limitations, identifying research areas for further development, raising implications for policy and practice and by calling for more attempts to enhance Greek Roma’s educational progression.
Date of Award2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorSharon Gewirtz (Supervisor) & Meg Maguire (Supervisor)

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