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Introduction

Higher education reform in the ‘periphery’

Mariya Ivancheva and Ivo Syndicus

In recent years, an increasing body of work has addressed the ‘corporatisation’ and ‘commodification’ of universities, as well as higher education sector reforms more broadly. This work refers mostly to the traditional core hubs of higher education, such as the Anglo-American research university. In the emerging anthropology of higher education policy, accounts of the implementation and negotiation of reforms in more ‘peripheral’ contexts often remain absent. This collection of articles addresses this absence by focusing on the interplay between narratives of global policy reform and the processes of their implementation and negotiation in different contexts in the academic ‘periphery’. Bringing together work from a range of settings and through different lenses, the special issue provides insights into the common processes of reform that are underway and how decisions to implement certain reforms reaffirm rather than challenge peripheral positions in higher education.

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Reforming universities in the Middle East

Trends and contestations from Egypt and Jordan

Daniele Cantini

This article addresses the core-periphery nexus by looking at some of the reform packages proposed in the 2000s in these two pivotal countries in the Middle East, Egypt and Jordan, as well as the resistances they generated. These reform packages include internationalisation and privatisation policies, as well as World Bank–sponsored programmes intended to enhance the higher education sector. These programmes are marked by a high degree of isomorphism with global trends: they belong to an unquestioned centre, with peripheries as receiving points of policies elaborated elsewhere. In this article, I examine some of the resistances they were met with in Egypt and Jordan and show how their translations were shaped by the logics of the local contexts so that they were rarely implemented. Looking at post–Arab Spring developments, the article reflects on the continuity of reform packages amidst political turmoil, and the ways in which these reforms are altering or reinforcing processes of peripheralisation.

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Spatialising university reform

Between a centre and a periphery in contemporary Finland

Sonja Trifuljesko

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.

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Anthony Rausch

This article examines the impact of contemporary higher education policy at a rural university in Japan. Hirosaki University, although a national university with an attached medical school, is far from the centre of academia in Japan, with a comparatively low ranking among national universities in Japan, and severe budget constraints. The policies that influence the trajectory of the university simultaneously illustrate two dimensions. On the one hand, they reflect global trends of neoliberal higher educational governance as these unfold in a leading nation-state within Asia. On the other hand, they show how policies originating within central government ministries and dictated by population and budget dynamics yield a highly localised outcome that forces a peripheral university to concentrate its efforts predominantly in its own community.

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Don’t know much about NAFTA

The continued importance of a global issues general education course

Carol D. Miller

At the beginning of the semester, 42.6 per cent of undergraduates enrolled in a lower division, general education global studies course at a comprehensive state university in the Midwestern United States reported that they ‘didn’t know’ what the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was, and 85 per cent believed that, in general, trade with other countries created jobs. Analyses of data show that those who did not rely on TV or radio for their news sources were less likely to know what NAFTA was, but their knowledge transformed by the end of the semester. Results demonstrated the necessity for general education courses focused on global issues in an era when students do not rely on traditional sources for news information.

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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.