Project Title:Rural Students’ Final Year in Elite Universities: Examining Determinants of Academic and Social Success

  • Funding Scheme : General Research Fund
  • Project Number : 17617916
  • Principal Investigator: Prof Postiglione, Gerard A
  • Abstract:

Gaining admission to universities is an important step toward upward social mobility for rural students. Adjusting to higher education institutions constitutes the next crucial one. There is evidence in China that rural students experience obstacles to their academic success that increase with each year at university. This is particular the case when they enter the most elite universities. They can barely benefit if the challenges on campus hinder them from a successful transition into the new social settings. Recent policies introduced by Chinese government have increased the number of rural freshmen in China’s key universities. Yet, current literature seldom look at how rural students navigate the elite academic milieu and how this is associated with their social backgrounds. The PI and CIs have conducted preliminary research on rural students in their at four elite universities, which indicated that obstacles grow as social activities on campus become more important to academic success and readiness for graduation. Our proposed rural student university survey (RSUS) will document social origins and experience, including academic performance, interactions with faculty/staff members, peer group interactions and participations in extracurricular activities. The proposed research will provide data to analyze how rural students navigate their university environment. The research is grounded in Tinto’s model of social integration in universities, with insights from Bourdieu’s cultural capital theory. The project uses a mixed-method research design. We plan to document the patterns of academic and social success achieved by the participants and its associations with their social origins by surveying 2000 students selected using a two-stage cluster sampling method. A questionnaire is adapted from a pre-established instrument, the validity of which has been tested by a pilot study. We also propose face-to-face interviews involving around roughly 100 students whom we purposively sampled. This will provide qualitative data to illustrate the possible associations between the social origins of students and the results of their navigation in elite universities. The findings of this study are expected to contribute to the literature on the relationship between education and social equity, as well as provide useful knowledge for university counselors to help rural students become better adjusted and integrated into the university environment.