IRC PhD Scholarship Secured by UCD School of Edcuation Post-graduate Student, Dorothy Conagnan and Professor, Kathleen Lynch 


Congratulations to Dorothy Conaghan and Professor Kathleen Lynch for securing an IRC PhD scholarship for 'Private Music Education: Class Positioning, Cultural Opportunity and Insurance against risk?'. The study examines the relationship between privately provided after-school, extra-curricular activities among children and young people focusing in particular on classical instrumental music education (IME) in Ireland.

The aim is to examine whether participation in extra-curricular IME is a means to class distinction, a mechanism for limiting class risk, and/or a valued cultural experience. This project will employ a creative application of social justice, sociological and educational theories to explore why parents choose to pay for private instrumental music education for their children.

At a theoretical level, and expanding on Bourdieu’s (1984) argument, the study will explore the issue of class distinction in the context of Ulrich Beck’s (1986, 2007) theory of the ‘risk society’ (1986; 2007) and individualisation (1992:35). This approach will further develop the hypothesis put forward by Elliot (2002) and endorsed by Ball (2003), both of whom argue that ‘Beck, fails to adequately consider that individualisation may directly contribute to, and advance the proliferation of class inequalities and economic exclusion’ (Ball 2003: 164). Within this paradigm, the study will investigate the extent to which parent-dependent, extra-curricular music education is perceived (by parents) to yield acquired cultural capital that obviates risk, and supports, enhances and maintains social class position for their children, and/or whether it is valued as a cultural experience. The study will also examine the role that cultural factors, material resources, maternal education and active parenting play in determining engagement in extra-curricular activities such as classical music education.

It will form a critical enquiry into both the extrinsic benefits of IME and the role such education plays in creating individual biographies, that can be converted into cultural capital and used for future personal advantage and class distinction in the labour market (Lareau, 2011: Beck, 1986, 2007, 2013). A secondary aim of this study is to examine the wider cultural, economic, geographic and educational contexts in which IME operates in Ireland, focusing on differences, in terms of access, provision and participation.