Spatialising university reform

Between a centre and a periphery in contemporary Finland

in Learning and Teaching
Author:
Sonja Trifuljesko University of Helsinki sonja.trifuljesko@helsinki.fi

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Abstract

This article investigates contemporary attempts to reform the institution of the university according to neoliberal ideological influences and oppositions to them. It employs Doreen Massey's concept of space to focus on relations and separations made in the process. My ethnography of the University of Helsinki's 375th anniversary celebration, which turned into a public spectacle of various visions of higher education, constitutes the main empirical material. Finland's ambivalent position in the world renders the spatial work of forging connections and disconnections particularly conspicuous. It enables specific neoliberal aspirations (such as to be among ‘the world's best universities’ amidst global competition) to become very strong but also allows additional trajectories, like the one about higher education as public goods, to present themselves as legitimate alternatives. The centre-periphery relations are therefore critical sites for analysing the contemporary university transformation, since they appear to be key drivers of the reform but also the primary source of resistance to it.

Contributor Notes

Sonja Trifuljesko is a doctoral candidate of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Helsinki and a grant-funded researcher at the Centre of Consumer Society Research. She holds masters degrees in Ethnology and Anthropology (2011) and in Art History (2008) from the University of Belgrade. She has been an associate fellow of the Universities in the Knowledge Economy (UNIKE) project and is an editorial intern of the American Ethnological Society. Her doctoral project ethnographically investigates contemporary transformation of Finnish universities. She conducted her fieldwork at the University of Helsinki between 2014 and 2016. Email: sonja.trifuljesko@helsinki.fi

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Learning and Teaching

The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences

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