Conference Papers

Transition from University to work: Lived experiences and perceptions of South Asian women in higher education in England

With the rise of multiculturalism in Britain the visibility of ethnic diversity has increased. Over the last two decades, studies concerning ethnic minority women from South Asia (Pakistan, India and Bangladesh) in the United Kingdom reveal that intersection of ethnicity, gender and differences in social class influence the level of adaptation of their distinct roles in personal, academic and career trajectories. Much of the earlier literature found on the lives of South Asian women was merged within their familial and traditional roles and limited attention was paid to their educational and professional prospects. This study focuses on how ethnicity, gender and social class issues interrelate in the lived experiences of South Asian women upon their transition from university to work by considering their previous educational journeys from early childhood. Exploring the lived experiences of young South Asian women would be paramount to understand how these women perceive the interplay between these constructs from early educational experiences to current HE experiences and their expectations of transition to employment. By using Bourdieu’s theory of practice (Field, Capitals and Habitus), the researcher has theoretically and empirically linked how one’s individual experiences and social positions, opportunities and challenges shape the expectation of the objective reality and their ability to pursue these expectations. The aims of this study are set out as exploratory narratives of South Asian women’s perceptions which include the interpretations of the meanings of their lived experiences by the researcher.
This qualitative research employs an ethnographic study design as well as the elements of Phenomenology in order to adapt thematic narrative analysis approach. In examining the experiences and perceptions of South Asian women’s higher education trajectories, this study will explore their narratives as they relate to their evolving lived experiences within a raced, classed and gendered world. Twelve South Asian women in higher education, living in and around Hampshire region in England were interviewed and asked to explore the experiences of their educational journeys. This was achieved by semi-structured and biographical interviews, participants’ observations and field notes. The fact that the researcher has only recently collected data, the analysis is still a work in progress. In the preliminary analysis so far, one of the key themes identified so far is the involvement of family and the impacts of familial roles of South Asian women upon their higher educational and employment journeys. More detailed findings will be ready by the date of the conference. Once completed, it is expected that the comprehensive analysis of the data will yield results specific to the interpretations of the social dimensions of South Asian women’s perceptions and their role identities, will interact to paint the picture of their expectations of transition from university to the work environment.

Khawaja, L. (2018) 'Transition from University to work: Lived experiences and perceptions of South Asian women in higher education in England', paper presented to The 14th Annual Conference of the British Education Studies Association (BESA), 27–29 June, viewed 18 January 2020, <>