Abstract ♦ Almost no change in the objective indicators of students’ social status has been observed in Russia in the last 20–25 years. However, social prestige and public assessment of students’ social status has been highly volatile. Self-assessment of their social status by students who join the middle class after graduation reflects the main trends of public opinion, following the attitudes towards higher education in the society in general. It makes the study of the subjective component of the Russian students’ social status ever more urgent.
The article presents the outcomes of an empirical study of social self-assessment by students at Moscow universities (2014). The cluster sample included 1633 people. Primary information was collected by means of questionnaires. Our analysis of this data began with considering the interconnection between the students' assessment of their social status, their definition of the value of higher education, the attitude to the degree program they are in, their belonging to a particular university, estimated prestige and the educational profile of various universities, etc.
A large share of respondents found it difficult to assess the social status of students as a group. Only a quarter rated it as "high", and a little more than a third — as "low". The majority of respondents explicitly linked the social status of students to the perceived value of higher education, with one third of them mentioning its high value, while two thirds have observed a decline in the value society assigns to higher education.
Some correlations have been found between self-assessment of social status and belonging to a particular university. At polytechnics, half as many students believe that higher education guarantees a high social status as they do at classical universities. Students at polytechnics tend to give lower estimates of social status and, in comparison with those in other programs and institutions, have a bigger opportunity to combine study and work. A little over half of the respondents said they do participate in the process of cultural reproduction. While only a quarter rated the social status of students as high, a clear majority of 74% consider their university prestigious to study at.
Our analysis has revealed internal contradictions in both general evaluation of the social status of Russian students and their line of argument, which reflects the society’s ambiguous attitude towards higher education. To sum it up, students will consider their social status high only when a number of conditions are met, such as studying at a prestigious university; enjoying the process of learning; financial security and independence from parents; and being assured that their field of study is valued and held in high demand by the society in general.
Keywords: students, social status, assessments of social status, cultural production, higher education, prestige of a university, financial insecurity.
Korotkova Marina Sergeevna, Postgraduate, Department of Sociology; Head, Office for Extra-curricular Work; Chair, Student Council, Moscow University for the Humanities. Postal address: 5 Yunosti St., Moscow, Russian Federation, 111395. Tel.: +7 (499) 374-71-53 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Research adviser: Doctor of Social Sciences, Professor Nina A. Seliverstova.
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