Under-represented students’ university trajectories: building alternative identities and forms of capital through digital improvisations

Sue Timmis, Bernardita Munoz-Chereau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
17 Downloads (Pure)


This paper focuses on widening participation in relation to underrepresented
student negotiations of and trajectories through university by drawing attention to students’ informal digital practices for studying and social interactions associated with
undergraduate student life. Drawing on a two-year UK study and Holland et al.’s [1998. Identity and Agency in Cultural Worlds. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press ] framing of agency, culture and identity making across ‘figured worlds’, we consider the importance of informal studying and socio-academic practices and the role of digital technologies in fostering agency and identity making. The significance of this study lies in revealing the particular importance of improvisation and collective agency for under-represented students participating in university. Whilst acknowledging that the technologies can also reproduce social
inequalities, we conclude that, through the increasing interconnectedness of academic and social interactions, the digital improvisations offer creative opportunities for students to negotiate spatial, social and academic inequalities and lead to new/alternative identities and develop stronger social, cultural and educational capital.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalTeaching in Higher Education
Early online date2 Dec 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Dec 2019

Structured keywords

  • SoE Centre for Knowledge, Culture, and Society
  • SoE Centre for Higher Education Transformations
  • SoE Language Literacies and Education Network


  • Widening participation
  • Agency
  • Digital cultures
  • Social networks


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