SRHE 2017

You can catch Jessie next week at the Society for Research into Higher Education conference in Newport (6th -8th December). She will be presenting a paper entitled: ‘‘There’s a lot of us, if we wanted to make a difference we could’: Exploring undergraduate students’ understandings of themselves as ‘political actors’ in England and Ireland’. The paper explores early findings from the focus groups and policy documents in England and Ireland.


Whilst higher education (HE) students have historically been conceptualised as important ‘political actors’, arguably the extent to which they are able to have a voice in society is likely to differ in particular contexts and countries. In this paper we draw upon data collected from focus groups with HE students in England and Ireland alongside analysis of policy documents in each country to consider the extent to which students are constructed (and feel) like important political actors. Findings suggest that, contrary to perceptions that English and Irish students are largely similar, Irish students appeared more empowered than English students in relation to perceptions of themselves as influencing policy. Narratives present in the policy documents mirror these findings, with students in Ireland located as key political actors to a greater extent than in the English documents.

You can read the full outline paper here

Jessie will be presenting this paper as part of a symposium with colleagues:  Laura Bentley; Kirsty Finn; Adam Formby; Nicola Ingram; Vanda Papafilippou. The session is entitled: Political Identities and Generational Solidarities: Students and Graduates Negotiating Contemporary Crises and will take place on Friday 8th December at 9:00am. 

More information can be found in the conference programme 

Films and TV shows featuring students

One of the four strands of our research focuses on analysing the ways in which students are constructed in the media in our six case study countries (England, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Poland, Spain). We will be analysing newspaper articles and also popular TV shows and films that feature higher education students in a prominent manner.

We are keen to put together a resource of relevant TV shows and films – for our own benefit, but hopefully it will be of use to others as well. Paul Greatrix has done a good job identifying some sources, that will be familiar to a UK audience, including a dozen which he thinks it’s best to avoid. However, we hope to include media from other European countries in our list.

If you have some suggestions, please do get in touch with us. We’ll compile all the nominated films and TV shows into one list, which we’ll post here in due course (and thank all those who have contributed). Many thanks!

Welcome to the research team

We are very pleased that all members of the EuroStudents research team have now started work on the project. Here are some brief introductions to the researchers….

Jessie Abrahams is one of the post-doctoral research fellows on the project, working in particular on the student understandings strand. She is in the final stages of an ESRC-funded PhD at Cardiff University looking at the way in which the English secondary education system reproduces social class inequalities through its structures and practices. Prior to this, Jessie was a research assistant on the Leverhulme Trust-funded Paired Peers Project exploring the experiences of students from different social class backgrounds at the University of Bristol and UWE Bristol.

Predrag Lažetić is also a post-doctoral fellow on the project and he is responsible for the institutional perspectives strand of research. He is the final stages of his PhD work at the University of Bath investigating the institutional regime differences in the quality of jobs higher education graduates undertake in different European countries. Prior to this post he worked as the director of the Centre for Education Policy in Belgrade and as a researcher in the International Centre for Higher Education Research in Kassel, Germany, specialising in both posts in higher education research.

Anu Lainio is a postgraduate researcher on the project and is leading the media representations strand of work. Anu did her first master’s in education in University of Tampere. She studied her second master’s in Erasmus Mundus programme on Lifelong Learning: Policy and Management in Aarhus University (Copenhagen) and Deusto University (Bilbao). Anu also has a several years working experience in higher education administration and in international relations. Her research interests are in internationalisation of higher education, mobility, social justice and equality.

Launch seminar – final programme

We’re really looking forward to the seminar to launch the EuroStudents project, which will be held next Wednesday at the University of Surrey. The final programme is posted below. If you aren’t able to come along, but would like to take part in the discussions, do follow the seminar on Twitter. We’ll be using the hashtag #HEstudents.


Wednesday, 21st September 2016, University of Surrey, LTJ, Lecture Theatre Block


09.30-10.00: Coffee and registration

10.00-10.15: Welcome and overview of the ‘EuroStudents’ project, Rachel Brooks, University of Surrey

10.15-11.15: Keynote presentation: LTJ (Chair: Rachel Brooks)

Student Experience in Context: higher education policy and the changing value of university education, Michael Tomlinson, University of Southampton

11.15-11.30: Break

11.30-13.00: Parallel sessions

Session A: LTJ (Chair: Johanna Waters)

Spatial and social (im)mobilities through higher education,             Michael Donnelly, University of Bath

Students in cities – the everyday mobilities of contemporary UK students, Mark Holton, Plymouth University and Kirsty Finn, Lancaster University

‘Talent-spotting’? Inequality, cultural sorting and constructions of the ideal employable graduate, Nicola Ingram, Lancaster University and Kim Allen, University of Leeds

Session B: LTF (Chair: Steve Woodfield)

Her majesty the student: marketised higher education and the narcissistic (dis)satisfactions of the student-consumer, Elizabeth Nixon, Richard Scullion and Robert Hearn, University of Nottingham

The student-as-consumer versus the student-as-learner: some preliminary findings from the UK, Stefanie Sonnenberg, University of Portsmouth

Understanding the student experience, Rachel Spacey, University of Lincoln

13.00-14.00: Lunch

14.00-15.30: Parallel sessions

Session C: LTJ (Chair: Kim Allen)

Unreasonable rage, disobedient dissent: the social construction of student activists through media and institutional discourses in the United Kingdom, Jessica Gagnon, University of Portsmouth

‘It’s always a good decision to go to University because if you don’t you’ll end up becoming a cleaner or a supermarket worker’, Jessie Abrahams, University of Surrey/Cardiff University

The changing nature of students’ unions; young people as political actors?, Rachel Brooks, University of Surrey

Session D: LTF (Chair: Alex Seal)

How institutional doxa can shape choice within higher education, Jon Rainford, Staffordshire University

Contemporary students’ rights: a discursive strategy to overcome hysteresis in a post-92 HE setting, Karl Baker-Green and Cinnamon Bennett, Sheffield Hallam University

Paradoxes of the academisation process: a sociological exploration of the history of foreign and classical language education since 1864, Eric Lybeck, University of Exeter

15.30-15.45: Break

15.45-16.45: Keynote presentation: LTJ (Chair: Jessie Abrahams)

Biopolitics and the ‘making’ of the unexceptional student: some geographical reflections on education in East Asia, Johanna Waters, University of Oxford

16.45-17.00     Concluding comments