23 SES 04 B, Higher Education
This paper aims to contribute a critical policy analysis of the “social” objectives and initiatives that the European Higher Education (HE) Policy agenda (the Bologna Process/ EHAE and EU) sets for national systems and HE institutions across Europe after 2000. As part of an ongoing research project entitled “Educational trajectories in Greek higher education: Diversity, Inequalities and Inclusion, we seek to critically examine the key issues, themes and terminology of HE governance (Sultana, 2012) at the level of European education policy on the topic of inequalities (Lawn & Grek, 2012). From a Foucault inspired perspective on education governance, we can argue that these elements fabricate the “social” and “political” meanings of european higher education on inclusion, operating as regimes of truth for European member-states and HE institutions on how they “should” respond to the increased diversity of student populations and handle the difficulties disadvantaged students confront in their academic trajectories. Accordingly, they outline the conditions the states and the institutions “should” ensure in order to eliminate discriminations, to combat inequalities and to contribute to social cohesion.
Researching HE inequalities in this respect turns out to be a demanding task due to the lack of critical analysis of the discursive categories articulating the european policies such as “efficiency and equity in education and training systems” (European Commission 2006), “competence and inclusiveness” (Amersen, 2011), “Early School Leaving” (Ross & Leathwood, 2013), and “Social dimension” (London Commiunique, 2007). A review of research about education inequalities in HE in contemporaty globalized societies reveals the need for thorough analysis of the European discourses on “inclusion” and their crucial shifts and articulations with governmental categories of critical policy studies such as performativity,monitoring, quality, knowledge change and new public management regimes (Ball, 1998, 2004, Ozga, 2009, Lawn & Grek, 2012).
On the contrary, there is a vast body of sociological studies on socio-economic family background, analyzed especially through Bourdieu-inspired social capital approaches in HE studies, which explains various forms of inequalities and exclusions of students in HE, related to entry, choices, competencies of students to cope with the cognitive and information aspects of study programs, and their motivational disposition to academic integration (Reay et al., 2001, Sianou-Kyrgiou, 2010͘). Moreover, a number of recent studies provides an elaborate overview of initiatives by governments and institutions to enhance students’ experience in HE in terms of retention, student satisfaction and equal educational opportunities (Trowler 2010, Rubin 2012). Issues of engagement and developing a sense of belonging lie at the heart of both retention and study success. Finally, research shows that students’ academic integration is influenced by inclusive leadership practices; institutional infrastructure for inclusion; social integration and student support services, and mechanisms of tracking and monitoring their progression and study success (Thomas, 2012).
In the complexity of current HE learning environments, the increasing levels of student diversity have never been more challenging for HE research than today, especially in cases like Greece. Official data shows that despite legislation and institutional policies for widening participation, and students’ progression and support (Law 4009/2011, Law 4838/2017), the problems of education inequalities in HE persist, and the problem of student retention appears to be greater in relation to other European countries. In 2012, the 61.1% of all university students had not graduated in the official time required (n+2) (KANEP,2006). Despite the urgency of the problem, research on dropout rates is very limited(European Commission, 2015).
The paper aims to contribute with a strong, European in orientation, analysis on the topic answering the following research questions: How HE governance is played out in terms of inclusion and governing educational trajectories (Walther, et al., 2016).
The paper develops with a literature review and policy analysis for broadening our problematic on HE inequalities and educational trajectories at two levels. First, we move from the national, institutional and individual level of analysis to European education governance argumentation and secondly we exploit the interdisciplinary approaches described in the collective volume “Education governance and social theory” for rethinking “social reproduction” in the European education area (Wilkins & Olmedo, 2019). The methodological paper on “Researching Education in a Globalising Era: Beyond Methodological Nationalism, Methodological Statism, Methodological Educationism and Spatial Fetishism” by S. Roberston and R. Dale informs this move. Crucial in developing our methodology is that “methodological nationalism [referring] to the tendency to take the nation state as the container of societies….and the methodological statism - [referring] to the tendency to assume that there is a particular form intrinsic to all states … [assume] that all polities are ruled, organised and administered in essentially the same way, with the same set of problems and responsibilities, and through the same set of institutions. The problem emerges because the state, as an object of analysis, exists both as a material force and also an ideological construct (Mitchell, 1999:76). The ideological construct tends to dominate, and spread—for instance through global interventions like the ‘good governance’ agenda (Weiss, 2000). Added to this problem, as Bourdieu (1999:53) points out, are the problems for the analyst when categories are produced by the state and are also deeply embedded in societies. Thus, “to endeavour to think the state is to take the risk of taking over (or being taken over by) a thought of the state, that is, of applying to the state categories of thought produced and guaranteed by the state and hence to misrecognise its most profound truth (p.4-5)”. Theories and methods of discourse analysis would be exploited for analysis. Findings are based on the analysis of selected official European and national policy documents as well as institutional resources. Important empirical material for exploring institutional practice regarding curricula, learning resources, student support services and public information are official websites and evaluation reports. Findings from semi-structured interviews with HE rectors and staff of social services of the institutions of the research would also be presented. Three Greek universities is selected for this study under the criteria of different history, location and organisational structure. Thus, the study allows for comparing gaze across different HE environments.
Among the expected outcomes of the project are a systematic critical “mapping” of European, national and institutional education policies on “inclusion” that would allow discussion around the meanings of relevant categories, important shifts and articulations that formulate dominant discourse and inform “practices of inclusion”, constructing subject positions for inclusion and exclusion in HE education. Two interrelated examples are indicative of the approach and the outcomes of the analysis of the dynamic and “never ending” European education governance. “Social dimension” is an “old” term in the Bologna process but it continues to be invested and re-invested with meanings through an on-going “follow up” process. The term operates as an open signifier for education inclusion in HE. In the Paris Communiqué (2018) it takes the meaning of wide participation that reflects the diversity of Europe’s populations, and of improvement of access and completion of studies by under-represented and vulnerable groups. On the other hand, the renewed EU agenda for Higher Education talks about “social inclusion” and connects it to civic engagement. This is not irrelevant to the new initiatives of EU’s current agenda of a more united, stronger and more democratic Union, which calls European leaders to discuss a new fundamental issues. One of the key issues for debate and decision concerns the social dimension of Europe (European Commission, 2017b). It is in this context that the document goes on to state: “It is therefore in the shared interest of all Member States to harness the full potential of education and culture as drivers for jobs, social fairness, active citizenship as well as a means to experience European identity in all its diversity” (p. 2).
Arnesen, A-L., (2011). International politics and national reforms: The dynamics between “competence” and the “inclusive school” in Norwegian education policies. Education Inquiry. 2 (2): 193–206. Ball S.J. (2004). Performativities and fabrications in the education economy. Towards the performative society. In: SJ Ball (ed) The Routledge Falmer Reader in Sociology of Education. London: RoutledgeFalmer,pp.143–155. Ball SJ (1998) Big policies/small world: An introduction to international perspectives in education policy.Comparative Education 34(2): 119–130. Robertson, Susan L. and Roger Dale, ‘Researching Education in a Globalising Era: Beyond Methodological Nationalism, Methodological Statism, Methodological Educationism and Spatial Fetishism’, published by the Centre for Globalisation, Education and Societies, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1JA, UK at: http://www.bris.ac.uk/education/people/academicStaff/edslr/publications/15slr/ European Commission (2006). COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE COUNCIL AND TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT. Efficiency and equity in European education and training systems (COM(2006) 481 final). European Commission (2015). Dropout and Completion in Higher Education in Europe. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. Wilkins A. & Olmedo, A (2019). (Eds) Education Governance and Social Theory: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Research. London, Bloomsbury Academic, 2019, 232. Lawn, M. & Grek, S. (2012). Europeanizing Education: governing a new policy space. Oxford: Symposium Books Ozga J (2009) Governing education through data in England: From regulation to self-evaluation. Journal of Education Policy 24(2): 149–162. Reay, D., David, M. and Ball, S. (2001). Making a Difference? Institutional habituses and higher educationchoice, Sociological Research Online, 5(4). Ronald G. Sultana (2012) Higher education governance: a critical mapping of key themes and issues, European Journal of Higher Education, 2:4, 345-369, Ross, A. & Leathwood, C. (2013) Problematising Early School Leaving, European Journal of Education, 48(3). Sianou‐Kyrgiou, E. (2010). Stratification in Higher Education, Choice and Social Inequalities in Greece. Higher Education Quarterly, 64, 22-40. Walther, W., Parreira do Amaral, M. Cuconato, M, Dale, R (Eds.) (2016): Governance of Educational Trajectories in Europe: Pathways, Policy and Practice. London, New Delhi, New York, Sidney: Bloomsbury.ISBN: 978-1-4725-8952-1
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