Major research project to explore how celebrity informs young people’s aspirations launches today

Written by Team. Posted in News

For immediate release, Monday 22 October 2012


Major research project to explore how celebrity informs young people’s aspirations launches today

A detailed 20-month study exploring the ways that celebrity informs young people’s educational and career aspirations is being launched today (Monday 22 October).

The research entitled ‘The role of celebrity in young people’s classed and gendered aspirations’, will be carried out by Dr Heather Mendick and Laura Harvey at Brunel University and Dr Kim Allen at Manchester Metropolitan University. These researchers will be talking to young people about their aspirations and how celebrity culture shapes the way they think about their futures.

The research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, comes as last week David Cameron pinned his hopes on Britain becoming an ‘aspiration nation’. However, in recent comments, David Hanson, chief executive of the Independent Association of Prep Schools, pointed to growing concerns that celebrity culture is impacting negatively on the aspirations of young people.

Dr Heather Mendick from Brunel University, said:

There are so many scare stories about the dangers of celebrity for young people, leading to concerns about them wanting easy fame rather than achievement based on hard work and skill. For example, in a recent Guardian article, social care consultant Melanie Henwood labelled young rioters as ‘the Big Brother generation’ who suffer from ‘the mistaken expectation that they too can be celebrities, be rich, be famous, with little effort or talent required. Kim  Allen, Laura Harvey and I are critical of such claims, arguing that they are not based on evidence. Surprisingly few people have talked to young people about how they relate to celebrity culture. That’s why will be putting young people at the heart of our research into aspiration and celebrity over the next 20 months.

The researchers will work closely with 144 young people in six English comprehensive schools that cater for students from a range of class and ethnic backgrounds to explore how accounts of aspiration within celebrity (e.g. stories of success, talent and self-realisation) shape young people’s imagined futures. They will use group and individual interviews, online forums and case studies of celebrities to look closely at how individual students’ educational and career aspirations relate to celebrity and to their social class and gender. The study is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and will run until April 2014.

Project progress can be followed on or on Twitter via @CelebYouthUK

For more information contact Rebecca Griffiths at Communications Management on or 01727733885.

*The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK’s largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC’s total budget for 2012/13 is £205 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes. More at

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