Universities all around the world are undergoing thorough transformations instigated or buttressed by global forces, and they face similar problems while competing for status, influence, and wealth. University students constitute the most central stakeholder 'group' in higher education whereas the student body has significantly changed in the last decades: in size, in demographic composition, in needs, aspirations, and in expectations. Student choices, visions, and their voiced critique have exerted significant pressures on individual institutions and on entire systems of higher education. Therefore, the current transformations of universities as well as those of student bodies are intertwined.
While top-down approaches examining higher education from policy and from systemic perspectives have established themselves as a growing study field, inquiries observing these challenges from the vantage point of students have been rather scarce so far. To close this research gap, this conference – bringing together anthropology, sociology, educational studies, history, philosophy, and geography – has addressed the global challenges of higher education from a student perspective. It concentrated on students in and from South Asia (having a significant share in the student body all over the world), inquiring how global influences they face directly and via their educational institutions impinge upon their preferences, choices and possibilities.
Given the thorough transformation in the composition of the student body, this conference reflected on the power of social boundaries (such as gender, ethnicity, religion, and physical abilities, personal and political choices) and inequalities within institutions formally dedicated to equity, (social) justice and protection of rights. The presentations enquired into individual and collective mobilities experienced in the course of higher education, taking under consideration that social and spatial mobilities intersect in manifold ways. How these mobilities reinforce competition and conflict was of interest as much as conscious attempts challenging institutional hierarchies. Yet another angle of this conference was the assessment of student mobilization, targeting the realms of education, involvement in (party) politics as well as individually and collectively engaging in 'politics of the self' for instance as conscious civil society members.
Maria do Mar Castro Varela (Berlin, GER), Eva Gerharz (Bochum, GER), Chandraiah Gopani (Allahabad, IND), Elvira Graner (Bonn, GER), Siri Hettige (Colombo, SRI), Michael Huber (Bielefeld, GER), Surinder S. Jodhka (New Delhi, IND), Andrea Kölbel (Berlin, GER), Sanjay Kumar (Delhi, IND), Satendra Kumar (Delhi, IND), Julian Kuttig (Gent, BEL), Gudrun Lachenmann (Bielefeld, GER), Parvati Raghuram (Milton Keynes, GBR), Dhruv Raina (New Delhi, IND), Hritika Rana (Bielefeld, GER), Dietrich Reetz (Berlin, GER), Katrin Renschler (Bochum, GER), Fazal Rizvi (Carlton, AUS), Ulrich Schreiterer (Berlin, GER), Sagar Raj Sharma (Kathmandu, NEP), Amanda Snellinger (Seattle, USA), Raphael Susewind (Bielefeld, GER), Bert Suykens (Gent, BEL), Susan Thieme (Berlin, GER), Karen Valentin (Kopenhagen, DEN)