In 2004, Susan Brin Hyatt reported from a roundtable session organised by the American Anthropological Association ‘a dispiriting picture of academic life in the early years of the 21st century’, due to, amongst other things, ‘the casualization of the academic workforce’ (Hyatt 2004: 25–26). Less than a decade later, Joëlle Fanghanel notes that the ‘increased casualization of academic staff [has] significantly affected the evolution of academic work and working patterns’ (2012: 5). Casualisation takes different forms in different academic contexts, from the ‘adjunctification’ of teaching in the U.S.A. to precarious grant-funded postdoc positions common in Europe and the U.K. and the efforts to introduce other forms of temporary academic employment in New Zealand (Shore and Davidson 2014) and Australia (Barcan 2014). Seeking to contribute to these and other current discussions on the future of research and higher education in the era of privatisation and funding cuts, Hana Cervinkova and Karolina Follis convened the panel Anthropology as a Vocation and Occupation, held on 3 August 2014 at the 13th Biennial Conference of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) in Tallinn, Estonia.
Early-career anthropologists: Vocation and occupation
Karolina S. Follis and Christian R. Rogler
An emotional journey of identity change and transformation: The impact of study-abroad experience on the lives and careers of Chinese students and returnees
This article discusses the nature of Chinese students' transnational experiences and its impact on their identities within and beyond national and cultural boundaries. The discussion is located in the theoretical framework of transnationalism and explores in detail the ways in which students adapt, change and develop, both in the host country of their study and also on their return to work in their home countries. Empirical evidence in the article is drawn from the findings of three studies, led by the author, which have investigated the pedagogical, sociocultural and emotional challenges that Chinese students have encountered when studying at British universities, and the perceived impact of their overseas studies on their lives and careers in their home countries. The research findings suggest that there are distinctive patterns of challenges, struggles, adjustments, change and achievement over time – all of which are embedded in the processes of socialisation, enculturation and professionalisation. Such experiences are both transitional and transformational and, most profoundly, they necessitate identity change at and across different layers of boundaries. At the heart of this identity change is a constant, emotional search for a reflexive sense of self as an embodied individual, a member of a professional group and a member of an organisation.
Engaging Chinese international undergraduate students in the American university
Heidi Ross and Yajing Chen
Vincent Tinto's theory of academic and social integration provides a framework for investigating perceived problems associated with Chinese international students' engagement at a public research-intensive university in the U.S. Midwest ('Midwest' University). These 'problems' – classroom silence, segregation and instrumentalism – are often understood in cultural terms, and we describe sociocultural values that might influence such behaviour. We also contend that culture, on its own, cannot wholly explain the complexity of student behaviours on college campuses. In a case study of Midwest University's Business School, we show how institutional policies do much to shape Chinese students' engagement. We conclude that popular perceptions of Chinese student engagement are simplistic. Chinese students are not indifferent engagers; rather, their interaction with campus life needs to be understood as embedded within complex cultural and institutional contexts.
From free to fee: Neoliberalising preferential policy measures for minority education in China
Naomi C.F. Yamada
In both China and in the United States, policies of 'positive discrimination' were originally intended to lessen educational and economic inequalities, and to provide equal opportunities. As with affirmative action in the American context, China's 'preferential policies' are broad-reaching, but are best known for taking ethnic background into consideration for university admissions. The rhetoric of China's preferential policy discourse has remained surprisingly constant but shifts to a market-economy and incorporation of neoliberal elements have resulted in fee-based reforms that discourage inclusion of poorer students. In addition, as ethnic minority students principally from Western China compete to enter 'self-funded' college preparatory programmes, public funding is being directed towards the achievement of 'world-class' universities overwhelmingly concentrated in Eastern China. In contrast, in the United States, the difficulty of defending affirmative action in the face of a neoliberal climate has resulted in a shift in policy. If in China the policy remains even as the 'rule' has changed (Arno 2009), in contrast, in American institutions the rhetoric has shifted away from affirmative action in favour of diversity but efforts to hold on to the rules that promote equal opportunities remain.
(Self)Confidence or compliance: Students' experience of academic quality in study-abroad contexts
Kirsten Jæger and Malene Gram
This article investigates the views of quality in higher education held by two groups of international students: Chinese students at a Danish university and Danish students at Chinese universities. Given that there are no agreed international 'quality standards' in higher education, we analysed the students' understanding of the 'quality values' of their host institution and their own preferences and priorities. Representatives of the two groups participated in an interview study addressing the experience of academic quality at their study-abroad university. An intriguing trend was identified in the data. Danish students felt confident that they themselves were able to judge the academic quality of programmes, classes and lecturers both at home and abroad. The participating Chinese students tended to express themselves in slightly depreciatory terms regarding the academic quality values of their home universities. Regarding research methods and theoretical knowledge, they adopted the quality values of the Danish host university and referred to these values when evaluating their home universities.
Audit culture and the infrastructures of excellence: On the effects of campus management technologies
Drawing upon ethnographic data, this article investigates the effects of a new online campus management system in one of the largest universities in Germany. It shows the various ways in which this technological innovation influenced students', teachers' and administrative personnel's relations and everyday working practices and how it is influential in the reorganisation of university structures. The online management system is regarded as an important part of an emerging infrastructure of excellence, which materialises the changing understanding of qualitative studies and teaching. Findings show that the online management supports standardised and economised study, teaching and administrative practices and silences creativity and flexibility. However, these standardisations are negotiated and questioned by the actors involved.
Binational learning communities: A work in progress
Studying abroad can be a life-altering experience, but not necessarily. I credit the two study-abroad experiences I had as an undergraduate as setting my course as an anthropologist. At this stage in my career, having directed, taught and evaluated five study-abroad programmes in three different countries, I felt ready to create my own based on the pros and cons I had observed. In December 2013, I completed a pilot run of a binational learning community focused on food, culture and social justice in Ecuador and Oregon and would like to share the experience in order to encourage other higher education teachers to invent similar programmes. It is not an easy model to pull off, especially in a large state institution, but it achieved the kind of coherence that I have found lacking in other study-abroad programmes and was a very satisfying teaching/learning experience. I will outline some issues concerning study-abroad programmes and then describe
the programme I was involved in implementing in 2013.
Davydd J. Greenwood, Gaye Tuchman, and Julia Ganterer
Michael Billig (2013) Learn to Write Badly: How to Succeed in the Social Sciences
Review by Davydd J. Greenwood
Elizabeth A. Armstrong and Laura T. Hamilton (2013) Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality
Review by Gaye Tuchman
Christy Johansson and Peter Felten (2014) Transforming Students: Fulfilling the Promise of Higher Education
Review by Julia Ganterer
Countering the risks of vocationalisation in Master's programmes in International Development
Tobias Denskus and Daniel E. Esser
We review the ontological and pedagogical origins of International Development graduate education in the context of increasing pressures to 'professionalise' graduate curricula. We apply Giroux's concept of 'vocationalisation' to argue that professionalisation risks undermining the field's intellectual foundations in an elusive quest to equip students with functional rather than intellectual skills. Acknowledging ever-growing competition among graduates for gainful employment in this sector, we argue that instructors of International Development should recommit to the field's reflective tradition by creating spaces for transformative education and develop a repoliticised ethos that critically engages global capitalism.
Penny Welch and Susan Wright
Welcome to this issue of Learning and Teaching: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences. Important social aspects of contemporary higher education are addressed in this issue by authors from a number of countries and social science disciplines. These range from learning and teaching concepts of capitalism and alienation, to the impacts of computerised university administration, the systematic ways certain categories of students fall through cracks in the academic pipeline, and how to reintroduce social activism into a ‘professionalised’ curriculum and teach social justice through international study visits.