(Un)Belonging in Higher Education in the Twenty-First Century: A Study of Women First-Generation University Students at Elite Universities in Brazil and England

Date&Time: Thursday, 25th May, 11 am

Location: DMB, 2S10

Join online: Teams Meeting ID: 385 169 700 653, Passcode: 8RWpPc

Speaker: Anna Maria Del Fiorentino


I am a first-year PhD student at the faculty and I will present a bit of my PhD project. My PhD study aims to investigate experiences of (un)belonging at elite universities in Brazil and England, based on the lived experiences of women who are first-generation university students in the 21st century.

Empirical data show a steady increase in numbers of Black and state-school students accepted at elite universities in Brazil and England since the early 2000s, with record numbers recorded in the last five years in both countries. I want to understand how women first-generation university students’ sense of belonging was affected while doing their first degree in an environment (elite universities) that was created based on the exclusion of individuals like themselves. My hope is to highlight the urgent need of transformation of such spaces into more welcoming ones.

Similar to my MPhil study, I will explore inequality through an intergenerational and feminist perspective. For that, I will interview women who are first-generation university students and also their mothers; I will gather stories of (un)belonging to understand sense of belonging of the daughters at university, but I will also explore their mother’s memories from the time their daughters attended university. By learning from these two perspectives, I am aiming to understand how the mothers and daughters’ relationship and every-day feminist theory in the home interplayed with the sense of belonging of the daughters at university. Moreover, I will explore other potential impacts in the lives of mothers and daughters from the breaking up of an intergenerational cycle that denied access to higher education to mothers and the women before them in their families.

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