Finnish higher education has been closely related to the goals of the Finnish welfare state. Everyone has the possibility to educate themselves and to get ahead in life through education. Consequently, in Finland differences between social groups in chances to participate university education have narrowed although not disappeared (Kivinen, Hedman, & Kaipainen, 2007).
Moreover, in the context of enterprise university widening participation is encouraged but for neoliberal, market-driven outcomes while simultaneously promoting a rhetoric of diversity (see e.g. Archer, 2007). Students from so-called ’non-traditional’ backgrounds will enter university, gain qualifications and become ’useful’ workforce. Consequently, they will strengthen and support the economy in the global market. Part of this development has been that the long-standing contribution of academic education to cultivate knowledge has been re-labelled as employability (Boden & Nedeva, 2010) reflecting the short-term benefits of university education. Education is viewed primarily in economic terms and the major role of higher education has become training appropriate workforce. The formerly devalued non-academic abilities, the so-called new enterprise abilities, have gained increasing importance alongside the academic and theoretical competence (see, e.g. Komulainen, Naskali, Korhonen & Keskitalo-Foley, 2011; Korhonen, Komulainen & Räty, 2012) confirmed by the academic degree (Räty & Kasanen, 2013).
The academic ideal of a ’traditional student’ (e.g. Munro, 2011; Thunborg et al., 2013) has been an authentic and normal full-time student who is preferably a young white (male) middle-class student, a highly commited and fully-engaged scholar and independent learner whose main responsibility is to study. On the other hand, the deficient discourse positions ’non-traditional’ students negatively (e.g. Munro, 2011; Reay et al., 2010; Thunborg et al., 2013; Webber, 2014). According to this discourse a non-traditional student comes from a disadvantaged background (e.g. underpresented socioeconomic group, first generation HE student, lack of exposure to academic discourse, lack of capital), is a mature student, has dependent children, is an international student or a student-worker who studies on the part-time basis by distance education. Consequently, these students juggle work, family and study commitments with limited capital, struggle to adapt to HE, to fit into university environment, display lack of confidence and self-doubt (especially working-class women), need more support to develop study skills and are more likey to drop out.
In this paper we focus on the construction of university students’ subjectivities and ask: Who are the present day ’traditional’ and ’non-traditional’ students in the context of a regional Finnish university? How do they relate to academic and employability discourses? What kinds of novel social differences and hierachies are constructed at present day enterprise university?
Archer, L. (2007). Diversity, equality and higher education: a critical reflection on the ab/uses of equity discourse within widening participation. Teaching in Higher Education, 12 (5–6), 635–653. Boden, R., & M. Nedeva. (2010). Employing Discourse: Universities and Graduate ‘Employability’. Journal of Education Policy, 25 (1), 37–54. Davies, B., & R. Harré. (1990). Positioning: The Discursive Production of Selves. Journal of the Theory of Social Behaviour, 20 (1), 43–63. Kivinen, O., Hedman, J., & Kaipainen, P. (2007). From Elite University to mass higher education: Educational expansion, equality of opportunity and returns to University Education. Acta Sociologica, 50(3), 231–247. Komulainen, K., Naskali, P., Korhonen, M., & Keskitalo-Foley, S. (2011). Internal Entrepreneurship ─ A Trojan Horse of the Neoliberal Governance of Education? Journal of Critical Educational Policy Studies, 9 (1), 342–374. Korhonen, M., Komulainen, K., & Räty, H. (2012). Korhonen, M., ‘Not Everyone is Cut Out to be the Entrepreneur Type’. How Finnish School Teachers Construct the Mean- ing of Entrepreneurship Education and the Related Abilities of the Pupils. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 56 (1), 1–19. Munro, L. (2011). ’Go boldly, dream large!’: The challenges confronting non-traditional students at university. Australian Journal of Education, 55(2), 115–131. Räty, H., & Kasanen, K. (2013). Parents’ Perceptions of Their Child’s Academic Competencies Construe Their Educational Reality: Findings from a 9-year Longitudinal Study. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 43 (5), 1110–1119. Reay, D., Crozier, G., & Clayton, J. (2010). ‘Fitting in’ or ‘standing out’: Working-class students in UK higher education. British Educational Research Journal, 36(1), 107–124. Siivonen, P., & Brunila, K. (2014). The making of entrepreneurial subjectivity in adult education. Studies in Continuing Education, 36(2), 160–172. Skeggs, B. (2005). The Making of Class and Gender through Visualizing Moral Subject Formation. Sociology, 39 (5), 965–982. Thunborg, C., Bron, A., & Edström, E. (2013). Motives, commitment and student identity in higher education–experiences of non-traditional students in Sweden. Studies in the Education of Adults, 45 (2), 177–193. Webber, L. (2014). Accessing HE for non-traditional students: ‘Outside of my position’. Research in Post-Compulsory Education, 19(1), 91–106. Ylijoki, O-H. (2005). Academic nostalgia: A narrative approach to academic work. Human Relations, 58(5), 555–576.
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