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This article explores the choices of French upper-class female students enrolled in short vocational training courses to become social workers. Looking at the history of this type of training based on general sociodemographic data, we first situate it in the broader framework of the French higher education system. We then move on to analyse enrolment and examination practices, showing that there is a clear relation between the specific dispositions requested by the schools during the selection process, and the social background of applicants. Focusing on upper-class students reveals that their trajectories are not linear: rather, they seem to be the product of the complex articulation between students’ school experiences, their socialization processes, and the recruitment strategies deployed by social work courses.

  • gender
  • higher education
  • social background
  • choice of studies vocational guidance
  • recruitment procedure
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