Global Students: Mapping the Field of University Lives
Date: 7 - 9 December 2017
Convenors: Joanna Pfaff-Czarnecka (Bielefeld, GER), Andrea Kölbel (Berlin, GER), Susan Thieme (Bern, SUI)
Universities are currently undergoing dramatic change that is driven by different processes of globalization, value re-orientation as well as by the widening of the higher education sector taking place all over the globe. This conference brought together scholars from different disciplines and from different regional and topical study fields. It concentrated on the ever diversifying student bodies navigating both, the global realm of higher education as well as acting within the confines of the social spaces of their universities. The main rationale was to map out the globalizing field of higher education observed from the venture point of students reflecting on global trends as much as on local / national variation as well as engaging in comparative perspectives. The discussions centred on spatial and temporal dimensions of studying, on the different kinds of mobilities (social, spatial, intellectual, and political) entailed, on the nexus between in/equality and heterogeneity as well as on transformations and reconfigurations taking place in 'university lives'.
The complex interrelations between heterogeneity and in/equality were the recurrent theme throughout the conference. Increasingly, students differ in their ascribed characteristics, their resource endowment (academic aspirations have intensified so substantially that student debts have become an important economic factor), interests, skills, expectations, and imaginations. Comprising heterogeneity within their spatially delineated material premises, universities can be seen as 'cross-roads' where very diverse personal trajectories may intertwine, confront each other, or run parallel. Many tensions bear on the social spaces of universities, and studying can turn into a very ambivalent experience: going through a university course can be a period of greatest freedom in life, of widening horizons and social openings, but also of heteronomy, disciplining and conflicts.
During the deliberations, Doreen Massey's notion of 'throwntogetherness' came to the fore, indicating not only students' heterogeneity within university spaces, but also the forces bringing them together and the inequalities entailed in policies and procedures structuring the higher education and structuring the university lives. Inequalities were also uncovered in the modalities of subjectification of students under the conditions of (the ever increasing) neo-liberal pressures. The contributions drew attention to the ways how students are made to 'shape themselves' as eager, attentive and willing subjects of higher education dominated by international competition and increasing commercialisation. Socio-spatial arrangements were identified as yet another dimension where heterogeneity and inequality intersect. To some, university spaces appear as frontiers that can hardly be accessed. Specific categories of students – such as Dalits at numerous South Asian universities – endure different forms of exclusions and delineations stabilising differences vis-à-vis fellow students contesting their belonging to the academic space. Yet another dimension of inequalities was uncovered in the persistence of knowledge hierarchies in the post-colonial world society. The participants also discussed the work of social boundaries (reinforcement and blurring) along the classic lines of gender, race and class, but also showing how a number of further criteria – such as citizenship and hence the sojourn regulations – are structuring students every-day life, and their life-chances.
Claudia Baumann (Leipzig, GER), Alexander Bekemeier (Bielefeld, GER), Mikael Börjesson (Uppsala, SWE), André Bryntesson (Uppsala, SWE), Francis Leo Collins (Auckland, NZL), Ian Roger Dale (Cambridge, GBR), Elizer Jay de los Reyes (Bielefeld, GER), Stefanie Föbker (Bonn, GER), Rosario Freire (Bielefeld, GER), Antonie Fuhse (Göttingen, GER), Juliane Harms (Bielefeld, GER), Ashely Haru (Uppsala, SWE), Mark Holton (Devon, GBR), Sajad Khajavi (Utrecht, NED), Emilia Kmiotek-Meier (Esch-Belval, LUX), Caroline Knowles (London, GBR), Satendra Kumar (Allahabad, IND), Maggi Leung (Utrecht, NED), Hanwei Li (Tampere, FIN), Sara Lindberg (Uppsala, SWE), Xiao Ma (Leiden, NED), Davlatbegim Mamadshoeva (Bielefeld, GER), Karina Oborune (Zürich, SUI), Susan Robertson (Cambridge, GBR), Anna Sadecka (Warschau, POL), Judith Schlehe (Freiburg i.Br., GER), Johanna Waters (Oxford, GBR), Jakob Williams Ørberg (Kopenhagen, DEN), Ekin Yildiran (Bielefeld, GER), Judith Zijlstra (Amsterdam, NED)