Keywords: Higher Education Access; Social Inequalities; Gender; France; Switzerland.
Educational policy developments in France and Switzerland have increased eligibility for higher education. This paper explores the extent to which vocationally orientated pathways to higher education reduce social inequalities in France and Switzerland. More specifically, we analyse how the vocational pathway facilitates access to higher education for male and female students from lower cultural capital backgrounds. We refer to gender theory to link young people's subjective self-image and its corresponding institutional fit with different educational pathways. We use panel data from France (panel DEPP) and Switzerland (panel TREE) and multinomial logistic regression to analyse the accessibility of different institutional pathways to higher education for male and female students separately. Our results show different consequences of the two national educational systems with regard to social reproduction and gender inequalities. An intersectional analysis highlights that, in France, vocationally oriented programmes foster higher education access for young women with lower cultural capital. In Switzerland, the vocational pathway to access higher education is primarily used by young men from privileged educational backgrounds as a compensation for their underrepresentation in the traditional general education pathway to higher education.