Cross-field effect and institutional habitus formation: self-reinforcing inequality in Chinese higher education system

Xiao HAN

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Bourdieu’s concept of field offers an alternative explanation for the inevitable gap between policy initiative and implementation. While the existing literature mostly concentrated on the dichotomy of macro- and micro-politics in enacting education policies, the missing attention to meso-level, local governments as policy interpreters and implementers in some developing countries with a vast territory, China and Russia, for example, has hindered deeper exploration in policy studies. Adopting cross-field effects as the theoretical base and applying Bourdieu's conceptual triad as a whole, rather than considering habitus, practice, or field separately, this study examines Chinese transnational higher education (TNHE) policy enactment by subnational authorities, aiming to: first, contextualize Bourdieu's theoretical and empirical approaches in various political/economic systems while consider the policy practice at meso-level; second, demonstrate the essentiality of conversation rate and standard of capitals in field analysis; and third, based on these analyses, explore the formation of institutional habitus as a way of explaining the perennial inequality in the Chinese higher education (HE) system. The paper concludes with a theoretical reflection that Bourdieu’s ever-developing definition of habitus and the criticism of his unavoidable relapse to objectivism result from the indiscriminate use of individual and institutional habitus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-294
JournalJournal of Education Policy
Issue number2
Early online date30 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019


  • Bourdieu
  • cross-field effects
  • institutional habitus
  • meso-level
  • standard and conversion rate of capitals
  • transnational higher education


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