This issue of Learning and Teaching: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences includes work by authors from Austria, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Taiwan, Brazil and Sweden. The five articles cover a diverse range of topics: the third mission of universities, doctoral supervision, internationalisation of higher education, neoliberal think tanks in higher education, and an innovation in the teaching of political thought.
In the first article, Hans Schildermans explores the concept of the third mission of universities. Teaching and research are usually defined as the first and second missions, and the third mission is engagement with the wider society outside universities. Today the third mission is often understood as serving the interests of national economies or, even more narrowly, the needs of industry and commerce. The author critiques this version of the third mission and instead of drawing the usual distinction between private and public good, he uses the notion of the common—that is, shared resources that are collectively owned, controlled, and maintained.
Schildermans illustrates the value of this conception with reference to Campus in Camps, a grassroots university in a Palestinian refugee camp on the West Bank. He shows how new knowledge and new perspectives emerge from studying collaboratively. Instead of conceiving of a boundary between the university and the world outside, with the university producing knowledge and then passing it on to society, Schildermans argues that it would be better for academic and non-academic actors to come together to confront the issues that face them, to discover questions they had not thought of before and to develop solutions through common endeavour.
In the second article, Søren Smedegaard Bengtsen and Lynn McAlpine examine the way the practices of supervising doctoral students are embedded within the life experiences of individual supervisors and the prevailing policy contexts and how these evolve over time. As part of a longitudinal institutional case study, they interviewed nine supervisors who had been interviewed four years earlier. They also reviewed the national, institutional and departmental doctoral regulations that were in force during the same period. Video clips from their 2015 interviews were used to remind interviewees of their previous situation and stance. While many of the supervisors had experienced major life events and career changes in the intervening period, their overall approach to doctoral supervision had not changed. Institutional and departmental policies, such as more use of team supervision and the requirement for a termly progress report on each PhD student, were seen as having a positive impact on their practice by some, less so by others. However, most detected a tension between the core principle that doctoral training should be focused on the production of original research and new demands for enhancing the career prospects of PhD students.
In the third article, Mark Gosling and Wenhsien Yang evaluate the interface of Internationalisation at Home policies and Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL). The former are measures to internationalise the curriculum and student body in order to benefit students who cannot take advantage of opportunities to study abroad. The latter means that a course is taught in the target language, frequently English, so that students acquire an additional language. For many higher education institutions outside English-speaking countries, English-speaking classrooms are a way to attract more international students.
The authors undertook an exploratory study to discover how home students, working in what is not their first language, react to the presence in class of international students who are native speakers of the language of instruction – in this case, English. They surveyed students in the second year of a CLIL-based four-year hospitality degree at a university in Taiwan at the beginning and end of the semester. Results showed that the students’ expectations that their motivation would be increased by the presence of Canadian exchange students were fulfilled. However, they had not anticipated that the Canadian students would dominate class discussion quite so much. Free text comments and follow-up interviews revealed that students appointed to be study buddies for the exchange students had more interaction with them, and participants would have liked lecturers to promote more mixing between home and international students when organising groups or setting assignments.
In the fourth article, Evandro Coggo Cristofoletti and Milena Pavan Serafim trace the development of neoliberal think tanks from the mid-twentieth century to the present day. These organisations were founded to renew and strengthen liberal thought in the face of the post–Second World War growth of welfare states and adoption of Keynesian economic policies and to challenge collectivism and left-wing thought. They bring together intellectuals, experts, business leaders and politicians to influence public policy. In Brazil, higher education is a particular target of neoliberal think tanks. They advocate maximum privatisation, challenge what they define as ‘left-wing indoctrination’ in universities and offer training to student activists who share their worldview.
The authors present a case study of Students For Liberty Brasil, set up in 2012 as a subsidiary of the American organisation Students For Liberty. Students For Liberty Brasil has at least two hundred student groups across Brazil and in 2019 promoted more than four hundred events that are estimated to have involved more than twenty-seven thousand students. The organisational and training resources it provides for student groups enable members to become politically active during their student years and beyond.
In the fifth article, Rasmus Karlsson and Kalle Eriksson report on an assessed group video. Introduced when teaching moved online in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the assignment was designed to replace the group work that had previously happened in their political thought classroom and to address the limitations of the established canon of political thinkers. Each student group made a five-minute video in which they argued for the inclusion of an additional theorist in the programme. The students were then tasked to watch all the other groups’ videos and write a paper responding to two of them. Students’ reactions to the exercise were overwhelmingly positive, and the authors intend to continue to set the same assignment when classes return to campus.
The issue concludes with a review of Lived Experiences of Ableism in Academia: Strategies for Inclusion in Higher Education by Nicole Brown. Our thanks go to the authors of the articles and book review, the anonymous referees who commented on the manuscripts, the Editorial Board and everyone at Berghahn Journals. This is the sixth issue that has been copyedited, typeset and produced during the COVID-19 pandemic.