Symposium on ‘Constructing the higher education student: understanding spatial variations’, Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers Annual Conference, 29th August-1st September 2017
We are organising a symposium with Johanna Waters (University of Oxford) at the RGS annual conference in the summer (abstract below). This is sponsored by the Geographies of Children, Youth and Families Research Group (of the Royal Geographical Society). Details about the individual papers can be found here.
Many scholars have argued that, in contemporary society, higher education policy and practice have both been profoundly changed by globalising pressures. Indeed, some have contended that the state’s capacity to control education has been significantly limited by the growth of both international organisations and transnational companies (Ball, 2007) and that the three traditional models of university education in Europe (Humboldtian, Napoleonic and Anglo-Saxon) have been replaced by a single Anglo-American model, characterised by, inter alia, competition, marketisation, decentralisation and a focus on entrepreneurial activity. Nevertheless, this analysis is not universally held. For example, not all European nations have sought to establish elite universities or maximise revenue through attracting international students, and significant differences remain in the way in which higher education is funded. In explaining such variations, scholars have pointed to differences in political dynamics, politico-administrative structures and intellectual traditions, as well as the flexibility and mutability of neo-liberal ideas themselves. However, research to date has focussed primarily on the extent of convergence (or divergence) with respect to top-level policies; as a result, little work has explored the perspectives of social actors, nor the ways in which policy may be ‘enacted’ locally, in ways that diverge from formal policy documents.
In this session we intend to bring together papers that explore the ways in which ‘the higher education student’ is constructed across different spatial contexts. We are keen to include papers that draw on data derived from students themselves, as well as from other social actors (such as the media, policymakers and higher education staff). We anticipate that they will speak to debates about what it means to be a young person within the contemporary university, as well as to those that relate more specifically to the geographies of higher education.
Symposium on ‘Constructing the higher education student and graduate’, British Sociological Association Annual Conference, 4th-7th April 2017
We ran a symposium at the BSA conference, with presentations from Katy Vigurs, Johanna Waters, Kim Allen and Nicola Ingram, as well as from the Eurostudents team. The symposium abstract is pasted below:
Education, and in particular higher education (HE) is often constructed as the great equaliser of life chances, and an important vehicle for social mobility. However, within the contemporary landscape – with an increasingly global ‘higher education market’ and the repositioning of higher education as a private (rather than public) good – traditional forms of inequality arguably appear magnified. This special session brings together work from four different research projects, investigating what it means to be a contemporary HE student or graduate in England and East Asia, and how these roles are being transformed through particular policy pressures. Overall the session seeks to explore the following broad questions: What does it mean to be a student in HE today? How does the conception of the HE student differ from policy to practice? How does the discourse around education and meritocracy construct some young people as ‘failures’? In a contemporary context of increased tuition fees and debt, how are young people navigating the graduate labour market? What are the mechanisms through which graduates today become identified as ‘ideal’ and ‘employable’ candidates? To what extent are inequalities of class, race and gender being reproduced through these contemporary constructions of students and graduates? To what extent do we see variation across different national contexts?
Launch seminar, University of Surrey, 21st September 2016
We held a seminar to launch the project at the University of Surrey in September. This focused on our current understandings of what it means to be a higher education student in contemporary Europe, exploring both similarities and differences between countries.
We were very pleased to have two great keynote speakers for the event: Johanna Waters, from the University of Oxford and Michael Tomlinson, from the University of Southampton. Both have undertaken research in areas very relevant to the EuroStudents project. Johanna has conducted a wide range of studies exploring the role of mobility within the lives of higher education students, while Michael’s research has included a study of the impact of recent policy changes on student attitudes to learning in higher education.
The final programme for the seminar can be found here.