This thesis investigates the impact the Quality Reform, social class and cultural capital have on departure from higher education. More specifically, the aim is to investigate whether, and if, and then to what degree, the aforementioned factors influence departure from higher education for students below the age of 26, that commenced their studies within higher education at one of the following institutions: The University of Tromsø, the University of Oslo, the university of Bergen and NTNU. The study is quantitative and logistic regression is used to investigate hypotheses.
The sample consists of register data that stretches from 1998 to 2005. One analysis is conducted for all educational fields, while one is conducted for the educational fields of the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Departure from higher education is measured at two points in students' educational career: after one semester and after three semesters. To investigate social class and cultural capital's impact on departure, a Bourdieu-inspired class schema is applied. In brief, the schema allows us to discern fractions within the social classes according to whether their total amount of capital mainly consists of cultural, economic or more or less equal amounts of these two forms of capital. Such a schema demands that the concepts and ideas that stem from Bourdieu's theoretical body are introduced. The concepts involve his understanding of social class in addition to habitus, capital and field. In addition to Bourdieu's thinking, I also bring in another way of understanding educational choices, namely Goldthorpe and Boudon's theory of educational inequality based on rational choices and social position theory. These two theoretical directions differ in mainly two regards: How one should understand human agency and why educational inequality remains prevalent. The main findings show that social class differences increase from one to three semesters. However, the supposition that cultural capital is beneficial for avoiding departure is not supported. On the contrary to the expectations, it is students whose parents have a great deal of economic capital that stand out with lower departure rates, even after the control for grades from upper secondary school. Further on, the findings show that the Quality Reform had a marginal effect on overall and social class related departure. In regards to overall departure rates, the University of Oslo is an exception as they experienced lower departure rates after the Quality Reform.