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Geoff Payne

Most undergraduates’ main, hands-on involvement in student engagement is completing satisfaction surveys, such as the U.K. National Student Survey (NSS), whose findings make significant contributions to university policy formation. It is therefore important that these surveys produce reliable and valid data, but previous and current NSS versions fail to do this. This article compares the U.K.’s model of ‘satisfaction’ with that of the U.S. National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). Whereas the NSS treats the student as a passive consumer, the NSSE treats the student as an active participant who shares personal liability for some of the educational outcomes. The NSSE’s greater use of factual rather than opinion questions, allowance for variation in types of students and student effort, and wider interpretation of ‘student engagement’ are seen as more fit for purpose and less influenced by the ideologies of neoliberalism and managerial control.

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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.

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How Do Students Rate Textbooks?

A Review of Research and Ongoing Challenges for Textbook Research and Textbook Production

Petr Knecht and Veronika Najvarová

This article argues in favor of including students in textbook research. As teachers decide which textbooks to use in their classrooms, they are the ones who influence textbook development. The article presents a research review of students' evaluations of textbooks, demonstrating that inviting students into the debate may result in interesting stimuli for improving textbooks. The article also discusses suggestions based on student feedback.

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Margarita del Olmo

This paper focuses on analysing challenges that students coming from different countries face when they come to Spain and continue their school trajectories started in their countries of origin. I use the narrative of one of these students, constructed through ethnographic work carried out in a programme designed to help migrant students ease their transition into the school system of the Community of Madrid. This narrative allows me to introduce some of the challenges these students face and how they re-shape their trajectories and their self-perceptions according to the possibilities their new contexts present them with. With this, I contextualize the case study to show a broader picture of migrant students coming from different countries to stay in Spain during the last decade, and how schools themselves address this situation in Spain, in general, and in Madrid, in particular.

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Writing for Student Audiences

Pitfalls and Possibilities

Heather Streets-Salter

When historians privilege writing to and for one another over all other kinds of writing—especially in a period when the humanities in particular are under siege at public universities around the country—do we run the risk of making ourselves irrelevant to anyone but ourselves? This article explores the stakes involved when historians shift the focus of their scholarly work toward alternate, non-academic audiences. In this case, I will focus my attention on writing for university and secondary student audiences through textbooks and reference works. On the one hand, I argue that writing for students has its pitfalls, because it is devalued in the historical discipline relative to monographs and articles based on archival research. As such, investment in such writing can prove detrimental to achieving tenure and promotion. On the other hand, I argue that writing for students allows us to reach a much larger audience than our peers. In addition, writing for student audiences forces us to think carefully about the accessibility of our writing as well as the link between research, telling stories in writing, and teaching. As such, I argue that writing for students may allow historians greater visibility and relevance in the public at a critical time, given recent cuts in higher education budgets.

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Student Mobility and Internationalisation

Rationales, Rhetoric and 'Institutional Isomorphism'

Vered Amit

Drawing on interviews with Canadian and Australian officials, this article examines the frame of student mobility within the broad discourse of internationalisation. Difficulties in definition and admitted shortfalls in achieving progress even on the more easily articulated benchmarks of student mobility, do not seem to staunch the enthusiasm of a variety of officials for the idea of internationalisation. This article will examine some of the contradictions framing these institutional discourses of internationalisation. These include the gaps between institutional claims and their substantiation, between lauding the internationalism inculcated by student mobility programmes and the more mixed motivations or engagements of student clients, and between claims for the entrepreneurial potential of internationalisation as against the uncertainty of its outcomes. I argue that a long-standing Western view of travel as a vehicle for self-cultivation and transformation combined with competitive efforts to keep up with perceived trends in the fields of post-secondary education are producing a momentum that is elusive even as it threatens to bulldoze its way across important institutional practices and procedures.

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Maria-Amelia Viteri and Aaron Tobler

This article illustrates the multiple ways in which anthropology graduate students crossed the boundaries of educational discourses by encouraging themselves, other students, activists and community leaders to speak in dialogical contexts (Giroux 2005: 73). They did this through the organisation of the Interrogating Diversity Conference. The authors organised this conference in March 2007 at the American University, Washington, DC, to expand scholarship on surveillance and policing in an egalitarian forum. We discuss how students can engage their departments and faculty in building the students' knowledge of both anthropological theories and methodology through shared scholarship. We show how students can 'apply' anthropology to audiences, which will in turn influence policy decision making. In addition, the authors explore how academics can transform knowledge sharing into tools that shape broader political and social dialogue.

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Unreasonable rage, disobedient dissent

The social construction of student activists and the limits of student engagement

Jessica Gagnon

This article explores the limits of student engagement in higher education in the United Kingdom through the social construction of student activists within media discourses. It scrutinises the impact of dominant neoliberal discourses on the notion of student engagement, constructing certain students as legitimately engaged whilst infantilising and criminalising those who participate in protest. Exploring media coverage of and commentary on students engaged in activism, from the 2010 protests against university fee increases and from more recent activism in 2016, the article draws upon Sara Ahmed’s (2014) Willful Subjects and Imogen Tyler’s (2013) Revolting Subjects to examine critically the ways in which some powerful discourses control and limit which activities, practices and voices can be recognised as legitimate forms of student engagement.

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Jacqui Close

In the U.K., ‘student engagement’, and the related ‘student experience’, are increasingly measured, interpreted and then marketed to students as a basis on which to choose the ‘best’ place for their higher education. This article summarises and reflects on presentations from five panel members at a conference on their experience of university life after that choice had been made. The panel included non-traditional students who embodied some of the characteristics (such as age, social class and ethnicity) that have become performance indicators in relation to widening participation and engagement in higher education. This article captures how students themselves understand a concept that occupies such a prominent, if contested, position in contemporary higher education. This analysis invites one to take a closer look at the identity work necessary for students to thrive (and for some just to survive) at university against a backdrop that tends to homogenise both ‘experience’ and ‘student’.

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Introduction

Constructing and practising student engagement in changing institutional cultures

Lisa Garforth and Anselma Gallinat

This introduction sets the theoretical and historical context for this special issue on student engagement. Drawing on literatures about audit culture, governance and change in higher education institutions, and theories of practice, institutions and organisation, it sheds light on the current era of English higher education. The Browne Review led to the withdrawal in 2010 of the majority of the government teaching grant for English universities, and it tripled tuition fees in 2012. In the post-Browne era, ‘engagement’ emerged as an organising concept linked in multiple ways to other objects and discourses, in particular university league tables and measures of student satisfaction; and it was swiftly and often unreflexively translated into visions for developing learning and teaching. This special issue focuses on this specific shift in policy and discourse, exploring institutional change and everyday experience, and reflecting on the power and limits of policies.