Accounting for unequal access to higher education: The role of social identity factors

Marlon Nieuwenhuis*, Antony S.R. Manstead, Matthew J. Easterbrook

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Western societies stress the potential for anyone, irrespective of social background, to improve their position within society. However, disadvantaged students face barriers in gaining a good education. Two studies in secondary schools show how perceptions of identity compatibility and anticipated fit influence students’ university choices. It was found that relatively disadvantaged students scored lower on identity compatibility, and that low scores on identity compatibility were associated with lower anticipated fit at a local selective (Study 1) or highly selective (Study 2) university. Anticipated fit, in turn, predicted the type of university to which participants wanted to apply; those who anticipated fitting in more at selective universities were more likely to apply to higher status universities. These relations were significant while controlling for academic achievement. Together, these studies suggest that social identity factors play a relevant role in explaining higher education choices among low-status group members.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-389
Number of pages19
JournalGroup Processes and Intergroup Relations
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2019


  • UT-Hybrid-D
  • individual mobility
  • social identity
  • socioeconomic status
  • high-status universities


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