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

5 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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