Flora Petrik, MA


Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
GRK Doing Transitions

Institut für Erziehungswissenschaft
Abteilung Allgemeine Pädagogik
Münzgasse 26, R 202
D – 72070 Tübingen

0049 7071/29-76752

Flora Petrik works as a research fellow and lecturer at the Department of Foundations of Education at the Institute for Educational Science, University of Tübingen. She studied Educational Science, German Studies and Comparative Literature in Vienna and Jyväskylä and has been an associate member of the DFG graduate program »Doing Transitions« since January 2020.

In her dissertation project, she explores the experiences of working-class students in Austrian and German Higher Education and shifts the perspective to the potentially empowering spaces at university. Her other areas of focus in research and teaching include social inequality in schools and universities as well as epistemological and methodological issues.

Research Project

Becoming Academic
First-Generation Students in Austrian and German Higher Education

In recent years, educational research has illustrated how persistent social structures are: Social background has a decisive influence on study experiences, life trajectories and regulates transitions within the education system. Especially studies on higher education have shown that one’s social class is not neutralised by entering university but rather stays persistent throughout students’ educational careers. The equal distribution of opportunities remains an »illusion«, as Pierre Bourdieu and Jean-Claude Passeron have already noted in the 1960s.

In my dissertation project, I explore a subject matter that has been gaining increasing attention during the past years: Upward mobility. I place the experiences of those who escape their supposedly predetermined fate and transgress the persistent class barriers at the centre of attention. The aim of my PhD project is to examine biographical transformations of first-generation students at university. Thus, the research project is interested in linked transitions, in particular how biographical and class transitions relate to one another. How are transitions to and in higher education shaped, produced and experienced? How is a sense of belonging constructed in the field of university? Which arrangements of time, space, actors, and practices frame and navigate upward mobility in education? Which spaces of possibility for habitual transformation open up in the process? 

Drawing on case studies of 24 first-generation students across higher education institutions in Austria and Germany, the project attempts to understand the complexity of climbing up the educational ladder and examines both the normalising and empowering dimensions of upward mobility. Collecting different biographical data (biographical-narrative interviews, diary entries, autobiographical documents of one’s educational path), allows to explore the powerful interrelatedness of discourses, institutions, and individuals. Transitioning to university hence appears as a non-linear, conflicting process of becoming.

Key Publications

  • Petrik, F. (2022). Becoming academic. Working-class students at university. In Y. Akbaba, T. Buchner, A. Heinemann, D. Pokitsch & N. Thoma (Eds.), Teaching and learning in a society of difference. Interdisciplinary and intersectional perspectives. Springer, pp. 87-109. (published in German)
  • Lütgens, J., Petrik, F. & Rieger-Ladich, M. (2022). On upward mobility. A practice-theory perspective on returning home. Zeitschrift für Pädagogik 68(1), pp. 130-146. (published in German)
  • Rieger-Ladich, M., Feldmann, M. & Petrik, F. (2022). Contested Remembrance: The “Old” Federal Republic and “New” Right Politics in Germany. In Goto, M./Wigger, L. (Eds.), Remembrance – Responsibility – Reconciliation. Challenges for Education in Germany and Japan. Metzler, pp. 31-44.
  • Rieger-Ladich, M. & Petrik, F. (2022). Doing Masculinity in Britain’s Underclass. Darren McGarvey on Class and Gender. In G. Schuhen, M. Schröer, M. & L. Henk (Eds.), Precarious Masculinities: class struggle, social inequality and narratives of social stigma. Transcript, pp. 67-92. (published in German)
  • Brehm, A. & Petrik, F. (2021). »Stay as you are, even if they tell you, you’re nothing.« Methodological reflections on habitus transformations. In A. Lange-Vester & H. Bremer (Eds.), Developments in the field of Higher Education. Beltz Juventa, pp. 123-136.

Conference Presentations (selection)

  • First-Generation Students in Austrian and German Higher Education. Talk at the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER), 23. – 25.08.2022, Yerevan.
  • Becoming Academic – Working-Class Students in Austrian and German Higher Education. Talk within the symposium “Doing transitions – on making and becoming across the life course. Benefits for educational research from a relational perspective on life course transitions” at the WERA focal meeting, 21. – 25.04.2022, San Diego, California.
  • Doing Masculinity in Britain’s Underclass: Darren McGarvey on class and gender. Talk at the conference “Gender in Transformation Processes: Central and Southeast European Perspectives”, 30.09.2021 – 01.10.2021, University of Graz, in collaboration with Markus Rieger-Ladich.
  • ‚Nontraditional‘ Students – Biographical perspectives on un/doing age in Higher Education. Talk within the symposium „Linking Ages“ at the World Education Research Association (WERA) focal meeting, 07.–09.07.2021, Santiago de Compostela.
  • Come as you are? Habitual Transformations in Higher Education. Poster presentation at the international conference „Doing Transitions in the Life Course“, 17.–19.02.2020, Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen.


  • German Educational Research Association (GERA), research networks »Philosophy of Education«, »Biographical Research in Education« and »Gender Studies and Education«
  • PhD network »Qualitative Educational and Biographical Research« of GERA
  • German Association for Sociology (DGS), research networks »Education« and »Biography«
  • Goethe Research Academy for Early Career Researchers (GRADE)
  • Association of psychoanalytical social psychology (GfpS)
  • Working group »Gender« at the Institute of Education Studies, University of Vienna
  • Working group for cultural analysis »aka«, Department of European and Comparative Literature and Language Studies, University of Vienna