Is a Foundation Year Programme to an A-Level as a 7-UP is to a Sprite: Exploring an Attempt to Diversify an English University

  • Chima Michael Anyadike-Danes University of Sheffield


What contribution might social anthropology make to our understanding of the consequences of successive British governments’ attempts over the last two decades to widen participation in England’s universities? In this article I answer this question by examining a foundation year programme at a university in the nation’s former industrial heartland. Drawing on anthropological literature on rites of passage I analyse working-class participants’ experiences of this admission process. Its creators envisaged it as a rite that would seamlessly assimilate ‘diverse students’ into the university body, but I argue that it does not do so. Instead, as is to be expected from a rite, it marks participants. It thus prevents them from ever just being students in the eyes of themselves and their fellows.