Launch seminar – second keynote address

We are delighted that Johanna Waters, associate professor of human geography at the University of Oxford, will be giving the second keynote address at our launch seminar on 21 September. The abstract of her talk is given below.

Biopolitics and the ‘making’ of the unexceptional student: some geographical reflections on education in East Asia

This paper deals directly with the question of how contemporary students are ‘made’, with a focus on biopolitical processes.  In East Asia, children’s education has variously been described as an ‘imperative’, as a ‘fever’ and an ‘obsession’ amongst the populace. It is given a status, arguably, that is unsurpassed in any other geographical context. Specific technologies, that include high profile public examinations, serve to create particular subject identities, separating the successful from the unsuccessful student. These student identities have far-reaching and potentially profound implications; individuals are often perceived of as having failed ‘morally’ as well as ‘academically’. In this paper, I consider what options are available for individuals who have ‘failed’ to access higher education in the conventional way, drawing on research from two projects that have explored different aspects of students’ spatial (im)mobilities in/from Hong Kong. In one scenario, failing students ‘exit’ the system altogether and seek HE overseas; in another, students obtain HE through continuing education colleges and subsequently pursue ‘non-local’ degree programmes. In both cases, students are able somehow to disrupt the biopolitical production of ‘local’ student identities, offering, in the process, a form of political resistance to dominant ‘meritocratic’ ideologies.

Launch Seminar – abstract for keynote address

We are very pleased that Michael Tomlinson, of the University of Southampton, will be giving one of the two keynote addresses at our launch seminar on 21st September. Michael’s talk will be entitled Student Experience in Context: higher education policy and the changing value of university education and we have pasted the abstract below.

‘This presentation will provide an overview of current trends and developments in higher education and their implications for student experience. The paper explores a variety of contextual and structural changes within and around higher education, including: massification, the move towards market-driven policy, the changing economic context for graduates and the continued socio-cultural divisions within the student population. The presentation will explore some of the main policy frameworks in place in UK higher education, their antecedents and potential consequences. One of the subtexts to recent HE policy has been the framing of contemporary students as rational choice-markers, consumers and self-disciplining agents who should hold their institutions to greater account. Recent policy frameworks have explicitly framed the value of higher education in almost exclusively utilitarian and performative terms (i.e. ‘value for money’, employability development etc). Drawing upon the speaker’s and other researchers’ critical insights in this field, the paper will consider some of the impacts of these changes have on student experience and the different ways in which students are positioned, and position themselves, in HE. This will include the contentious problem of the student-as-consumer and the way in which the value of higher education is framed.’

If you would like to join us on the 21st, for a day of stimulating papers, do register for a place here.