Much of the literature on university access and participation positions people from
disadvantaged backgrounds as those who have not ‘traditionally’ attended university.
Certain student cohorts are presented as lacking the skills or requisite knowledges to
achieve academic success, requiring additional assistance from institutions to address
these gaps. Rather than approach such students from a position of ‘lack’, this article
problematises the concept of privilege, particularly as this relates to the perceived
benefits of university attendance. Drawing on rich qualitative interviews with first-infamily
students, this article discusses the nature of these learners’ expectations of
university, particularly those related to the promise of a more secure financial future.
In unpacking these constructs and interrogating the ways in which higher education
sectors are located within discourses of betterment and opportunity, deep insight is
offered into the embodied and experiential nature of university for these students and