The Influence of Social Class on Internship Participation and Outcomes in Higher Education: The case of Hong Kong


Internships have been widely recognized as an effective channel for enhancing the employability of higher education (HE) students. Accordingly, any inequality in internship opportunities may lead to inequality in students’ employability and future social positioning. Using Bourdieu’s three forms of capital, this study explores how students’ under- standing and engagement in internship is affected by the differential resources available in their respective social class position and thus, the implications for the persistence of social reproduction in the future. Through in-depth interviews with eight HE students and three alumni from HE institutions in HK, we found that middle-class respondents engage in HE with cultural and social capital that motivate and facilitate their disposition and capacity to involve in internship. For working-class respondents, while a mismatched cultural disposition curtails their sense of utility, a lack of social capital limits their capacity to participate in internship. This study contributes to ongoing discussion on the relation- ship between social classes and education via the lens of internship involvement by providing evidence for the unequal playing field of intern- ship for students of different social class positions.