A study of the role of universities in shaping perceptions of class in Thailand.
Thesis DisciplinePolitical Science
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis seeks to better understand the concept of middle class by focusing on the way students’ experiences in university shape their class perceptions. In this study, we hypothesized that university reputation and the entrance process divide students into class fractions. Also, university environment, including its reputation, facilities, surrounding areas, lecturers, and student peers, is essential for producing class perceptions for students and Thai society.
This thesis focuses on three main areas: university environment (including its facilities, reputation, and surrounding areas), lecturers (including their background and courses), and student peer groups. To understand the middle class in Thailand, 7 universities nationwide were selected for this study based on the three criteria; reputation, location, and type of university (public, private and open universities). This thesis used mixed methods including observation, questionnaires, focus group discussions, and interviews of both lecturers and students.
In this thesis, we found that students are divided into different types of university based on their backgrounds. Moreover, the university environment plays a major role in shaping students’ class perceptions, although each environment influenced students differently. In addition, we found that the middle class is not a single unit, but there are several fractions within it. In particular, we found that the middle class is strongly divided into rural and urban components, with little mobility between the two during the tertiary education process. The data demonstrate that the fractions are united in attitudes to the lower class but divided within.
Additionally, middle class consciousness seems to be partly shaped by traditional culture and its hierarchies since the knowledge from higher education has less influence on students’ class perceptions.