Social Identity and Social Comparison in a Collegiate University System

Essay by d21b71University, Bachelor'sB-, May 2004

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The traditional collegiate system of Durham University is unique to just three universities with in the UK: Cambridge, Oxford and Durham. In total there are 15 colleges at Durham University, 13 of which are in Durham city, the remaining 2 based in Stockton at the Queens Campus. Once becoming a member of a college a student will remain in that college for their period within the university, graduate in the college gown, have the opportunity to attend college social and formal events and participate in college societies and sports teams. The college a student becomes a member of will inevitably become a major part of their university life and identity.

The Stockton campus was established in 1992 and was opened by the Queen in 1993, with the two colleges, George Stephenson and John Snow, opening within the first 6 years, therefore making them the most similar in age out of the total 15 colleges.

They are also very similar in size, George Stephenson having 900 members and John Snow 850. Students applying to colleges at the main Durham campus have the opportunity to apply to specific colleges on application; however those applying to the Stockton campus do not have this option and are assigned to either of the colleges once accepted into the university.

Background theory

Henri Tajfel and John Turner (1979) suggested social identity theory as a concept where humans obtain their identity through the groups within which they interact, often to the point of self-evaluation on the bases of significant group characteristics. The theory was developed in an attempt to explain the tendency for humans to form themselves into groups and stay in those groups even if there was no freedom of entering, for example nationality. The concept of social identity is based upon several descendent...