Working-class women study social science degrees: remembering enablers and detractors

Heather Fraser, Dee Michell, Liz Beddoe, Michele Jarldorn

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)


    ABSTRACT: In this article, we report on a feminist memory work project conducted with 11 working-class women in Australia. Participants responded to the question: what helps and hinders working-class women study social science degrees? The women confirmed that to succeed at university, they needed opportunities, resources, support and encouragement. We called these enablers and considered the role of ‘enlightened witnesses’ [Miller, 1997. Theessential role of an enlightened witness in society. Retrieved from]. Hindering the possibility of university success were detractors of many forms including inadequate resources and social conventions that discouraged the women from study. We describe saboteurs as undermining people and forces that the women had to overcome. We found that enlightened witnesses, broadly conceptualised, go some way but not all, to mitigating detractors and saboteurs that continue to hamper fair and meritocratic access to tertiary education.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)684-697
    Number of pages14
    JournalHigher Education Research and Development (HERDSA)
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2016


    • Detractors
    • enablers
    • enlightened witnesses
    • higher education
    • saboteurs
    • social sciences
    • widening participation
    • working-class women


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