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Penny Welch and Susan Wright

In this issue of Learning and Teaching: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences, academics from Sweden, the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom offer insights into a number of features of undergraduate study – independent study projects, the development of political attitudes, the graduate attributes agenda, general education courses in global studies and the attainment gap between students with different types of entry qualifications.

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Examining the graduate attribute agenda in Australian universities

A review of (continuing) problems and pitfalls

Peta S. Cook

Graduate attributes refer to an amalgamation of cognitive, personal, interpersonal and social skills, abilities and qualities that students are expected to develop and apply during and after their degree programme. They have been widely adopted across higher education in Australia and internationally. In this article, I review some of the continuing problems of graduate attributes in the Australian higher education sector some twenty years after their introduction, including the concepts of employability and work readiness, the processes of mapping and resourcing and whether graduate attributes are generic. This examination foregrounds the ongoing pitfalls of graduate attributes in relation to their purpose, contextualisation and implementation. While there remains potential positive student and institutional outcomes from graduate attributes, the continuing problems of resourcing and the diversity of roles and purposes that universities serve for students and communities, are being overlooked.

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‘I feel really good now!’

Emotions and independence in undergraduate supervision

Maria Zackariasson

Within Swedish higher education, there is an explicit focus on the importance of independence, not least in relation to degree projects, which makes it a significant issue within supervision. What student independence comprises and how it may be achieved, however, is rarely discussed, even though the expectations of independence may be a stressful aspect of degree projects for students. This article examines the role emotions may play in undergraduate supervision in relation to student independence through analysing recorded supervision meetings and focus group interviews with supervisors. Based in a theoretical framework centred on the concepts affective practices, anticipated emotions and anticipatory emotions, it discusses how supervisors handled students’ expressions of fear, anxiety, joy and relief, and how anticipated emotions could be used as a didactic tool.

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In Memoriam

Tribute to Joyce Canaan

Shirin Housee

For my dear friend, colleague and comrade Joyce. I write this with great sadness. Joyce fought a strong and brave battle against cancer for nearly two years, hoping that the treatments would finally end so she could get on with her life. This was my hope, too, because Joyce has so much ‘unfinished business’ – the book to complete, the articles to write and her contribution to the struggles of the land movement in Brazil to make. In a truly Freirean sense, she was building a movement with this community of farmers, teachers and academics. Joyce struggled against capitalism and its many violences and oppressions – imperialism, racism, sexism, ableism. ‘Fuck them all,’ she would say. ‘Fuck them all and let us build a better world’.

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Hailey L. Huckestein, Steven M. Mikulic, and Jeffrey L. Bernstein

When studying the political development of young people, level of education matters. However, instead of concentrating on the amount of education and how it affects one’s political attributes (vertical effects of education), we consider the effects of characteristics of one’s education, specifically one’s college major, among people with similar levels of education (horizontal effects). Our study demonstrates that the discipline in which one majors affects one’s political development, over and above the expected self-selection effects. While our results are modest, they suggest that there is much to be gained from exploring horizontal variations in education and its effects on political attributes.

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‘We are not all equal!’

Raising achievement and aspiration by improving the transition from the BTEC to higher education

Richard Peake

In my role as programme leader of the BA (Hons) Criminal Justice and Criminology, I observed that students who entered with A-levels were more likely to achieve a 2:1 or 1st class degree than students from other routes of entry. Analysis of five cohorts showed that less than half of entrants with Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) qualification achieved a 2:1 classification, compared to over 90 per cent of A-level students. In the interests of equity, this phenomenon deserved further investigation. I set out to identify issues in the transition to higher education that may cause BTEC students to struggle to adapt to academic study and any skills deficits that may ultimately lead to underachievement. As a result of the study, a toolkit was devised to smooth the transition, raise aspiration, enhance self-esteem and improve outcomes.

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Maria Karaulova, Patrick McGovern, and Tim Battin

Qiongqiong Chen (2017) Globalization and Transnational Academic Mobility: The Experiences of Chinese Academic Returnees Singapore: Springer, 143 pp., ISBN 9789812878847

Brian Caterino (2016) The Practical Import of Political Inquiry London: Palgrave Macmillan, 117 pp., ISBN 973319324425

Morten Levin and Davydd J. Greenwood (2016) Creating a New Public University and Reviving Democracy: Action Research in Higher Education New York: Berghahn Books, 220 pp., ISBN 9781785333217

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How has mobility become central to the EU’s idea of doctoral education?

A brief overview of the history of a policy idea

Pavel Zgaga

This article addresses why and how mobility has become central to the EU’s idea of doctoral education, aiming to reconstruct, in a historical perspective, the gradual conceptualisation of mobility as a policy idea. This process began with the discussion of academic mobility in the 1970s, when the European Communities had as yet no responsibility in the field of education, which resulted in the Erasmus Programme. In the late 1990s, the Bologna Process strengthened the discussion, substantially contributing to a consideration of mobility as a policy tool and the establishment of a mobility strategy. In connection with the EU research policy, the integration of doctoral studies into the Bologna Process is specifically analysed. The article concludes with some open questions, including the potentially negative consequences of the instrumentalisation of higher education for the concept of mobility.

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‘I’m like a snail carrying my entire house with me’

Doctoral fellows’ experiences of a mobile life

Lisbeth Kristine Olesen Walakira and Susan Wright

EU policies promote mobility as a part of contemporary doctoral education. EU-funded doctoral candidates are expected to move country, establish international research networks; travel for workshops, conferences and research stays abroad; and collaborate across disciplines as well as work in other sectors during their doctoral training. As far as EU policies are concerned, competence in all these ‘mobilities’ is essential for future knowledge workers in a competitive, global economy. But how do doctoral fellows themselves experience mobility? A survey of 3,410 EU-funded doctoral fellows shed light on their experiences of geographical, sectoral, interdisciplinary and social mobility. It showed that many PhD candidates are excited by the opportunities they see in their doctoral programmes, but they often experience tensions between their professional and personal desires.

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Introduction

Mobility in doctoral education – and beyond

Corina Balaban and Susan Wright

This special issue emerged as a result of Universities in the Knowledge Economy (UNIKE), a four-year collaborative research project and training programme for early-stage researchers that investigated the dynamic relationships between universities and knowledge economies in Europe and in the Asia-Pacific Rim. The project was funded by the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Commission (EC) and included researchers based at six different universities in five European countries. Mobility was not only a widespread research interest within the UNIKE academic community but also a reality of the project, which was in itself a practical example of mobility in doctoral education, as envisaged by the European Commission. Many questions emerged as to how mobility became so central to the European Union’s policies for higher education, but also as to how the portrayal of mobility on a policy level compared to the actual lived experiences of mobile students and researchers. ‘Mobility’ can refer to many different things: geographical mobility, social mobility, cross-sectoral mobility or intellectual mobility (interdisciplinarity). The academic literature mostly treats them separately, with clusters of studies around each concept. In contrast, this special issue sets out to investigate these different types of mobility collectively, with authors covering several parts or the whole spectrum of mobilities. We believe it is valuable to discuss these four different aspects of mobility together for two reasons. First, they are often mentioned together in higher education policy as ‘desirable’ characteristics of a given education programme. Second, the ideal profile of the new, flexible knowledge worker supposedly combines all these aspects of mobility in one persona. The policy literature produced by influential stakeholders in higher education such as the European Commission and the OECD focuses on how to encourage, foster and support different kinds of mobility, working on the assumption that mobility is inherently good and will benefit countries, higher education systems and individuals. Much of the academic literature has adopted a similar approach, focusing on ways to enable mobility rather than challenge it.