07 SES 12 B, Inclusion, Exclusion, Interculturality
The Bologna Process (BP) is an international higher education project which started in 1998 and currently involves 47 countries (the European Union and some neighboring states). Through the implementation of a number of action lines, the project aims to create the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) with comparable degrees and opportunities for academic and job mobility (EHEA, 2018).
Literature review about the BP demonstrated that the EHEA operates in the neoliberalist framework (Lundbye-Cone, 2018). Neoliberal politics, which promotes individual competition, brings inclusion or social justice agenda, focused on support, paternalism and cooperation, into question (Cameron and Billington, 2017). Prior research into inclusion in the BP is limited. The theme of inclusion in the BP can be traced in research about lifelong learning (e.g., Han, 2017), student-centred learning (e.g., Sin, 2017) and the social dimension (e.g., Jungblut, 2017); however, these are mainly implementation studies which do not focus on the meaning of inclusion in the BP. A separate body of literature on inclusion in the area of education suggests that it is a nuanced phenomenon as it is about overcoming the marginalization of people in education based on their certain characteristics, such as race, ethnicity, culture, gender, age, sexuality, social class, special education needs, etc. (Booth and Ainscow, 1998; Hodkinson, 2010). Similarly to Opotow (2018), the terms ‘inclusion’ and ‘social justice’ are used synonymously in this paper.
Evidently, the overall meaning of inclusion in the BP is an under-researched area which yields the need to ask the following research question: What is the meaning of ‘inclusion’ in the BP, and how has this meaning evolved since 1998 in key international policy documents?
The analysis of the answers that are sought to the research question above is guided by an original theoretical framework which is constructed in this paper to recognize that they may be two side of the same coin. Neoliberalism and inclusion are usually presented in the literature as polar and conflicting forces. The title of Liasidou and Symeou’s (2018) article provides an excellent illustration of such a vision: ‘Neoliberal versus social justice reforms in education policy and practice…’. These scholars conclude that neoliberal imperatives force out the discourse about inclusion from education policy. A plethora of other scholars echo this argument in their work, stating that neoliberalism makes it difficult for inclusive policies to stand because the latter ones do not promote individual competition which is the prerogative of neoliberalism (Hardy and Woodcock, 2015; Mladenov, 2015; Cameron and Billington, 2017). This paper adopts a different perspective by recognizing that neoliberalism and inclusion should not necessarily be always seen as pulling education agenda in opposite directions. My stance on this matter is perhaps the closest to Cameron and Billington’s (2017) suggestion proposition that neoliberalism penetrates into the inclusion discourse and neoliberalises it. I propose to push this idea further and anticipate a more harmonious co-exitence of the two, so to say, ideologies – neoliberalism and inclusion – in one phenomenon the name for which is yet to be found. This phenomenon may combine a mutually shaping relationship between neoliberalism and inclusion which reveals the neoliberalisation of inclusion as much as a growing inclusivity of neoliberalism.
Answers to the research question was sought through policy document search on the EHEA website and qualitative thematic analysis of these documents. Data collection and analysis was conducted between June-August 2018. 18 key documents issued between 1998-2018 were collected. All (nine) declarations and communiques resulting from the EHEA ministerial conferences were collected because these documents included stocktaking results and an outline of further goals. Each of these documents was supplemented by a relevant work program or plan (nine) to see concrete steps taken following the goals in the declarations and communiques. Each of the declarations or communiques and a relevant work program or plan belongs to one of the nine periods of the EHEA development. These periods are identified for the purpose of analysis in this paper based on the timeframes in-between each ministerial conference: 1998-2001, 2001-2003, 2003-2005, 2005-2007, 2007-2009, 2009-2012, 2012-2015, 2015-2018, 2018-2020. The years in these periods overlap because the ministerial conferences took place a few months into a year. Thus, work programs or plans relate to overlapping years. Manual thematic analysis had two phases. The first phase was about identifying inclusion-related sections in the policy documents, looking for the information relevant to the BP action lines identified in the literature as related to inclusion: the lifelong learning (Han, 2017), the student-centred education (Sin, 2017) and the social dimension (Jungblut, 2017). The second phase of the thematic analysis was conducted chronologically, following the stages of the development of the BP with the focus on the dialogue between the discourse of inclusion and that of neoliberalism. This phase of the analysis followed Rubin and Rubin’s (2012) guide for open and axial coding. Open coding entailed breaking down the data in the documents into themes and sub-themes, while being open to different insights. Open coding for the inclusion discourse was done around the notions of ‘social justice’, ‘inclusion’, as well as the categories identified by Hodkinson (2010), such as ‘gender’, ‘age’, ‘social class’, ‘special education needs’, etc. Open coding for the neoliberalist discourse was focused around such common neoliberalist terminology as ‘competition’, ‘excellence’, ‘performance’. The results of the open coding were regrouped in the axial coding, highlighting the nature of the relationship between the inclusion and neoliberals discourses within the inclusion-related BP action lines, and the evolution of this relationship since 1998. These themes and sub-subthemes with relevant quotes were recorded on 34 pages of a Word document.
Thematic analysis has generated the following key findings about the meaning of ‘inclusion’ in the BP: 1. Understanding ‘inclusion’ in terms of the three action lines (the lifelong learning, the student-centred education and the social dimension) has pitfalls because of the overlaps among these action lines and, consequently, unclear relationships amongst them. 2. Inclusion in the BP could be understood in relation to neoliberalism since both inclusion and neoliberalist language is present in the discussion of the three action lines. 3. The relationship between inclusion and neoliberalism has been evolving. Key milestones in this evolution included: 1998-2003 – focus on access to higher education for people from diverse cultural and language backgrounds with different aspirations and abilities; focus on the participation in education: removing obstacles to academic mobility; 2003 - focus on access to and participation in higher education ‘for all citizens’; 2005 – adding the focus on the transition to the labor market; 2007 – adding the focus on continuous professional development; 2015-2010 – terminological shift: ‘inclusive society’, ‘inclusive approaches’, ‘social inclusion’ are used for the first time. There was also a growth in the strength of the inclusion discourse, while the neoliberalist discourse remained the same: 1998-2005 – inclusion and neoliberalist discourses were relatively equal; 2005-2012 – stronger inclusion discourse; 2012-2020 – strong inclusion discourse and quite weak neoliberalist discourse. 4. Gaps remain in the meaning of ‘inclusion’ because of vague terminology (‘inclusion’, ‘underrepresented groups’, etc.). This research contributes to and establishes a clear link between two bodies of literature – about the BP and inclusion in higher education – by explaining the evolution of inclusion in the BP. This research can also inform policy-making in the EHEA in the anticipation of its approaching deadline for achieving a fully functioning EHEA by 2020 (EHEA, 2018).
Booth, T. and Ainscow, M. (1998). From Them To Us: An International Study of Inclusion in Education. Oxon: Routledge. Cameron, H., & Billington, T. (2017). ‘Just deal with it’: neoliberalism in dyslexic students’ talk about dyslexia and learning at university. Studies in Higher Education, 42(8), 1358-1372. EHEA (2018). Available at http://www.ehea.info/ (accessed December 3, 2018). Han, S. (2017). Institutionalization of lifelong learning in Europe and East Asia: From the complexity systems perspective. Asia Pacific Education Review, 18(2), 281-294. Hardy, I., & Woodcock, S. (2015). Inclusive education policies: Discourses of difference, diversity and deficit. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 19(2), 141-164. Hodkinson, A., 2010. Inclusive and special education in the English educational system: historical perspectives, recent developments and future challenges. British Journal of Special Education. 37 (2). 61-67 Jungblut, J. (2017). From preferences to policies in coalition governments—Unpacking policy making in European higher education. Public Policy and Administration, 32(4), 323-348. Liasidou, A., & Symeou, L. (2018). Neoliberal versus social justice reforms in education policy and practice: Discourses, politics and disability rights in education. Critical Studies in Education, 59(2), 149-166. Lundbye-Cone, L. (2018). Towards a university of Halbbildung: How the neoliberal mode of higher education governance in Europe is half-educating students for a misleading future. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 50(11), 1020-1030. Mladenov, T. (2015). Neoliberalism, postsocialism, disability. Disability & Society, 30(3), 445-459. Opotow, S. (2018). Social justice theory and practice: Fostering inclusion in exclusionary contexts. The Oxford handbook of social psychology and social justice, 41-56. Rubin, H. J., & Rubin, I. (2012). Qualitative interviewing: the art of hearing data (3rd ed). Thousand Oaks, Calif: SAGE. Sin, C. (2017). Comparative analysis of Physics master degree curricula across national and institutional settings: manifestations of student-centred learning and implications for degree comparability. The Curriculum Journal, 28(3), 349-366.
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