We are delighted that our proposal for a symposium at the BSA annual conference in 2017 has been accepted. It will focus on ‘Constructions of the higher education student and graduate’ and include presentations from Katy Vigurs, Johanna Waters, Kim Allen and Nicola Ingram, as well as from the Eurostudents team. The symposium abstract is as follows:
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?