22 SES 13 B, Universities and Social Justice: Research From a Human Development and Human Capabilities Perspective
This symposium presents research from five countries on questions of equitable access, participation and graduate outcomes of university education for the public good. Our shared theoretical framework is human development and, inside this, the capabilities approach which the symposium papers suggest can valuably contribute to define and characterize what a good university might be, and can stimulate new avenues to reach it. The role, goals and performance indicators for universities are dominated currently by a focus on economic competitiveness and efficiency, and the perception of higher education as a business for enhancing national competitiveness and a lucrative service that can be sold in the global marketplace. This vision has arguably eclipsed the social and cultural objectives of higher education generally, for example enhancing democratic life and human rights and through engaged learning in communities. Such non-market ‘goods’ which are recognized and valued in a human development and capabilities approach to higher education go beyond market benefits, yet without excluding the formation of human capital investments for future, economic opportunities and income. The human development approach arises from a tradition in humanist social philosophy and humanist economics. It stresses: (1) a plurality of values, not only economic utility as expressed and promoted within markets; (2) human-wide concern and solidarity - the field of reference is all humans wheresoever in the world and in particular all those affected by one’s actions; and, (3) it recognises the normality and centrality of human interconnections. It rests on a broad and plural conception of human well-being and sees development as the promotion and advance of well-being. Intertwined with the human development approach is the concept of human capabilities developed by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum to mean the real possibilities and opportunities of choosing and leading a life which a person has reason to value. Capabilities are specific positive freedoms - freedom, thus, plays a substantive role in development. Capabilities refers to different combinations of achievable functionings - the different things that a person chooses and values doing or being to constitute a worthwhile life. If we pursue Sen’s argument that what ultimately matters is what freedom does a person have, then the dominant human capital model for higher education does not do well. The approach takes into account social inequalities generated by diversity, where equality does not mean equal income but equal human capabilities. Another central concept is agency; freedom and agency are mutually interconnected because wider freedoms allow agents to act and achieve the goals they value, while the exercise of agency leads to a further widening of freedoms. Human development values, capabilities, agency, are then all key concepts to re-imagine a different vision and practice for universities. These ideas are explored empirically through the five research papers in this symposium, focusing variously on access to higher education in Bulgaria, working class students in higher education in Portugal, professional education in Spain and South Africa, and graduate employability in the UK.
- Search for keywords and phrases in "Text Search"
- Restrict in which part of the abstracts to search in "Where to search"
- Search for authors and in the respective field.
- For planning your conference attendance you may want to use the conference app, which will be issued some weeks before the conference
- If you are a session chair, best look up your chairing duties in the conference system (Conftool) or the app.