"First-generation student" is an expression that seems to be on everybody's lips, to the point that we forget the path that led to such widespread recognition of the term.
The term "first-generation students" designate students whose parents have no post-secondary education.
Nevertheless, this is a highly interesting example of knowledge transfer, claims researcher Pierre Doray, of the Centre interuniversitaire de recherche sur la science et la technologie (CIRST). The term "first-generation students" was first used by college and university administrators in the U.S. to designate students whose parents have no post-secondary education.
In Québec, in 2006, the CIRST's TRANSITIONS team employed the concept in its study on access to education and the educational experience at the post-secondary level. For its part, the institutional research office of the Université du Québec (UQ) followed suit in an internal survey, which led to the realization that the vast majority of its student body is composed of non-traditional students. This characteristic was presented to the UQ Planning Commission during the second preparatory meeting to the Summit on Higher Education on the subject of access to and participation in higher education, held in 2012, and at the Summit on Higher Education in February 2013.
More recently, the Minister of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology, Pierre Duchesne, raised the concept of first-generation students, stressing that special attention will need to be paid to the issue when it comes to the restructuring of university funding. Pierre Doray feels that this transfer from the academic sphere to the public sphere is based in part on the similarity between the concept of first-generation students and those of cultural capital, educational capital and non-traditional students, making it understandable and accessible to researchers from many different disciplines.