European higher education students: contested constructions – CRADLE Seminar Series #2 2023

Monday 20 February at 2pm

For our second seminar of 2023 we are pleased to welcome Professor Rachel Brooks in conjunction with the Research for Educational Impact (REDI) Strategic Research Centre. Professor Brooks is a Professor of Sociology and Associate Dean of Research and Innovation at the University of Surrey in the UK. The seminar will unpack the differing conceptualisations of the role of the student in European higher education.

Be part of the event by registering now!

  • When: Monday 20 February
  • Time: 2pm – 3.30pm AEDT
  • Where: Deakin Downtown, Tower 2, Level 12, 727 Collins Street, Docklands (Collins Square) or Online
  • Cost: This is a free event

There are currently over 35 million students within Europe and yet, to date, we have no clear understanding of the extent to which understandings of ‘the student’ are shared across the continent. Thus, a central aim of the seminar is to investigate how the contemporary higher education student understands their own role, and the extent to which this differs both within nation-states and across them.

This is significant in terms of implicit (and sometimes explicit) assumptions that are made about common understandings of ‘the student’ across Europe – underpinning, for example, initiatives to increase cross-border educational mobility and the wider development of a European Higher Education Area.

Drawing on data from students across Europe – and particularly plasticine models participants made to represent their understanding of themselves as students – there is an important disconnect between the ways in which students are constructed within policy, and how they understand themselves. The models produced by participants typically foregrounded learning and hard work rather than more instrumental concerns commonly emphasised within policy.

This brings into question assertions made in the academic literature that recent reforms have had a direct effect on the subjectivities of students, encouraging them to be more consumerist in their outlook.

The differences in conceptualisations between nation-states and institutions suggest that, despite the ‘policy convergence’ manifest in the creation of a European Higher Education Area, understandings of what it means to be a student in Europe today remain contested. 

About Rachel Brooks

Rachel is Professor of Sociology and Associate Dean for Research and Innovation at the University of Surrey, UK. Her research covers the sociology of education, the family and youth, and she has published widely in these areas. Rachel is editor-in-chief of Sociology, an executive editor of the British Journal of Sociology of Education, and co-edits the Routledge/SRHE ‘Research into Higher Education’ book series. In February 2023 Rachel will be in Australia on an academic visitation with the Research for Educational Impact (REDI) Strategic Research Centre.

Background Reading

  • Jayadeva, S., Brooks, R. & Abrahams, J. (2022). The (stereo)typical student: how European higher education students feel they are viewed by relevant others. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 43(1), 1-21.
  • Brooks, R. & Waters, J. (2022). Partial, hierarchical and stratified space? Understanding ‘the international’ in studies of international student mobility. Oxford Review of Education, 48(4), 518-535.
  • Brooks, R., Gupta, A., Jayadeva, S., Lainio, A. & Lazetic, P. (2022). Constructing the Higher Education Student: perspectives from across Europe (1st ed.). Bristol University Press.

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