22 SES 08 D, Inclusion and Diversity in Higher Education Settings
In the context of the current economic crisis in Europe that since 2010 is assaulting Portugal more harshly, and due to the rising youth unemployment (Eurostat, 2013), entrepreneurialism has been presented as the only exit to the lack of future perspectives in a country whose debt has forced thousands to emigration (Organization For Economic Cooperation And Development, 2013). Entrepreneurialism is commonly defined as the ability to be creative and innovative, pursuing opportunities regardless of resources. Entrepreneurship is increasingly recognised as a transferable skill and the European Commission recommends its fostering in higher education curricula (European Comission, 2012; Information Network on Education in Europe, 2012), with the aim of “developing entrepreneurial capacities and mindsets”. In the Portuguese context, entrepreneurialism has been pointed as a way to activate passive subjects, making them competitive and dynamic. But is entrepreneurialism an opportunity for individual autonomy or a pervasive conception of agency? And in what way does it match the aspirations of young people? Based on the biographical narratives of 25 first generation students from one Portuguese university campus, this contribution discusses the various meanings of entrepreneurialism and contrasts them with the aspirations and dreams of this particular group of students, whose vulnerability is shaped by overlapping disadvantage identities as precarious part-time workers coming from deprived socio-economic backgrounds. Their voices reflect critically the discourse of entrepreneurialism, and its limitations regarding individual agency.
The research is theoretically informed by the agency as defined by Sen, by the freedom as power and governmentality thesis defended by Foucault ( Senellart, & Collège de France, 2010) and by the vulnerability theory of Fineman. Foucault’s thesis will be used to analyse the political discourse on entrepreneurialism and the conditions for its development, whose core resides in a liberal and rational conception of the subject that is able to make informed choices, but not to define the options proposed. Fineman (2008)) challenges this liberal subject by observing vulnerability as a universal human condition that can be reduced or expanded through institutional intervention, and hence highlights the role of the state and other actors in ascribing privileges and denying support to certain individuals or projects. Finally, Sen (Crocker & Robeyns, 2009; Sen, 1999) brings the concepts of agency and choice at the individual level, taking into consideration the conversion factors that condition the not only the opportunities that are in fact provided to people but also the aspirations that people feel entitled to.
Crocker, D., & Robeyns, I. (2009). Capability and Agency. In C. W. Morris (Ed.), Amartya Sen (pp. 60–90). Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from http://site.ebrary.com/id/10349743 European Comission. (2012). Effects and impact of entrepreneurship programmes in higher education (p. 87). Brussels: European Union 2012. Retrieved from http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/policies/sme/promoting-entrepreneurship/files/education/effects_impact_high_edu_final_report_en.pdf Eurostat. (2013, January 5). Unemployment rate by sex and age groups. Eurostat. Retrieved May 1, 2013, from http://appsso.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/nui/show.do?dataset=une_rt_q&lang=en Fineman, M. (2008). The Vulnerable Subject: Anchoring Equality in the Human Condition. Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, 20(1), 1–23. Foucault, M., Senellart, M., & Collège de France. (2010). The birth of biopolitics: lectures at the Collège de France, 1978-1979. New York: Picador. Information Network on Education in Europe. (2012). Entrepreneurship education at school in Europe: national strategies, curricula and learning outcomes. Brussels: Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency, EACEA P9 Eurydice and Policy Support. Retrieved from http://eacea.ec.europa.eu/education/eurydice/documents/thematic_reports/135EN.pdf Organization For Economic Cooperation And Development. (2013). International migration outlook 2013. [S.l.]: Oecd. Sen, A. (1999). Development as freedom. New York: Knopf. Witzel, A., & Reiter, H. (2012). The problem-centred interview : principles and practice. London: Sage.
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