Much attention has been paid by academics and policy-makers in recent decades to declining levels of voter turnout and engagement with traditional political and social institutions in established democracies. These trends are particularly marked amongst young people. Drawing on data from the European Social Survey, this article examines the role of higher education (HE) both as a source of unequal participation and as a means of fostering civic and political engagement amongst young Europeans. It uncovers two significant new findings. First, that being in education matters more than an individual’s level of educational attainment for levels of civic and political participation, and second, that HE establishments play a key role as social levellers: being in education neutralises differences between young people from high-income and low-income backgrounds with regards to such participation. The article argues that this places added emphasis on the role of educational institutions in nurturing democratic engagement.
University of Lincoln, College of Social Science Research
James Sloam, University of London, Royal Holloway, Department of Politics and International Relations
Ben Kisby, University of Lincoln, School of Social and Political Sciences
Matt Henn, Nottingham Trent University, Department of Social and Political Sciences
Ben Oldfield, Nottingham Trent University, Department of Social and Political Sciences