This paper focuses on the policies implemented by universities in order to counteract the failure rates denounced by public authorities. It compares these policies with the rational constraints faced by students, and in particular with the constraints resulting from a prior educational trajectory. It challenges the idea that “universities generate failure”: universities are unable to integrate students who enroll in college because they have no other alternative, and fail to assist them in internalizing dispositions toward “hard work.” Such dispositions are not equally necessary for success, but they are sorely lacking when students have only little educational capital at their disposal when they enroll in college. In the end, the paper suggests that student responsibility is the product of a specifically political choice, which is not the most conducive to the democratization of higher education.
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