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  • 1.
    Larsson, Eric
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Education.
    Innerstadsgymnasierna: En studie av tre elitpräglade gymnasieskolor i Stockholm och deras positionering på utbildningsmarknaden2019Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
    Abstract [en]

    During the early 1990s Sweden underwent extensive educational reforms. Vouchers, freedom of choice, establishment of so-called “free-schools” together with far-reaching decentralization took the place of a highly centralized educational system, with few private schools and a very low degree of differentiation. A stated intention of these reforms was that freedom of choice as well as a greater number of educational options would level the playing field. It was believed that existing regulations hampered socially disadvantaged students and, by extension, opportunities for social and geographical mobility. Educational marketization has advanced and intensified since the 1990s, particularly in metropolitan areas and medium-sized cities. This is evident both in the increasing number of schools and in students commuting to inner city schools, and additionally in the continuous development of marketing strategies. Consequently, marketization has become an institutionalized part of Swedish education, and students and schools must equally adjust to the prevailing competitive conditions. Much of the research in the field has focused on the effects and extension of marketization and how free-schools and school choice affect socially vulnerable areas. However, instead of focusing on schools in socially vulnerable areas, I am interested in the schools at the top of the hierarchy and the elite segment of upper secondary schools in Stockholm. More precisely, the focus of this dissertation has been on how three sought-after and prestigious upper secondary schools position themselves in the educational market, but also how they are affected by and adjust to it. A further aim has been to analyse students’ educational strategies and the socialization processes that arise in their encounter with the schools as institutions. 

    This thesis has been guided by a theoretically inspired ethnography. The ethnographical data were primarily collected during a single academic year and within three separate elite upper secondary schools. The data set consists of observations in classrooms and other school-related spaces (meeting rooms, corridors etc.), interviews and data from official statistics. It also contains a wide array of documents, web sites, school magazines, anniversary books and photographs.  

    Using a Bourdieusian perspective, the analysis shows how both schools and students deploy strategies to cope with and adapt to the hierarchies and struggles of the contemporary educational market. The schools rely on accumulated institutionalized assets such as history, alumni, transfers to prestigious universities and their geographical locations. At the same time, they also need to provide an up-to-date educational setting to stay ahead, and moreover, to be able to collaborate and compete with the other elite schools. The analysis also illustrates why students choose these socially and academically selective schools and how they adjust to the school environment. It is illuminated that these schools are more than formal educational settings, they are places where students negotiate, debate, explore and develop soft skills. Nevertheless, they are also competitive school environments and while some students thrive, others struggle. This becomes apparent when they encounter and act in relation to the different social, symbolic and academic boundaries that exist in each school.

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  • 2.
    Larsson, Eric
    et al.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Education.
    Hultqvist, Elisabeth
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Education.
    Desirable places: spatial representations and educational strategies in the inner city2018In: British Journal of Sociology of Education, ISSN 0142-5692, E-ISSN 1465-3346, Vol. 39, no 5, p. 623-637Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    This article examines how the outcome of neoliberal educational reforms has affected urban schooling in the inner city of Stockholm - making it into a centralized nexus or a hot-spot' for students and schools. The aim is to analyse how geographical place and space have become major distinctive criteria in inner-city students' educational strategies, as well as a comparative advantage for upper-secondary schools in the fierce in-between school competition. The data consist of interviews with close to 120 participants, official statistics and marketing from 55 inner-city upper-secondary schools. Our findings suggest that the growing commodification and upward socio-spatial homogenization of the inner city both affect the way schools use spatial representations in their marketing and also the strategies deployed by students in their school choice.

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