22 SES 13 B, Inclusion and Diversity in Higher Education Settings
Student aspiration for higher education (HE) is high on the policy agenda of OECD nations. Typically it is derived from a suturing together of an economic and social inclusion agenda, aimed at widening the participation in higher education of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. In Australia, the ‘problem’ of student aspiration is particularly acute, not simply because of decades of under-representation by marginalised groups but also because on current estimates, government targets for increasing their participation are unlikely to be achieved (Sellar, Gale & Parker 2011). Australian universities charged with achieving these targets have ramped up their aspiration-raising outreach activities, with some institutional success but an overall sector-wide shortfall. We argue that this is because current policy and practice ‘dissociate aspirations from the objective situation [economic circumstances and social norms] in which they are constituted’ (Bourdieu 1990: 16). Little wonder that many students from disadvantaged backgrounds are convinced that HE ‘isn’t for the likes of us’ (Bourdieu 1990: 17). Far from a deficit account of their aspirational tastes, their ‘adaptive preferences’ (Nussbaum 2011) reflect their ‘awareness of impossibility and of prohibition’ (Bourdieu 1990: 17) in the invitation and destination. That is, the objective realities of students’ different circumstances produce differential relations between the desire for and possibility of higher education: what is desired by the advantaged tends to mediate what (for them) is possible; what is possible for the disadvantaged tends to mediate what (for them) is desired. Building on Bourdieu and informed by the aspirations of students from advantaged and disadvantaged Australian schools, we find that all students are capable of conceiving of and planning for one’s life in relation to ‘the good’ (Nussbaum 2003), including conceptions and plans that involve HE. Indeed, our data confirm other research findings that large numbers of students from disadvantaged backgrounds do aspire to undertake HE (Burke 2012; Hart 2013). However, the data also suggest that the established ‘tour’ to these destinations is conditioned by a particular aspirational ‘map’ (de Certeau 1984) that require certain ‘navigational capacities’ (Appadurai 2004). We conclude that as long as aspiration for HE remains a matter of taste, widening participation agendas in their current form will fail to attract the numbers desired to meet government and institutional objectives. Rather, an alternative appreciation of aspiration as a matter of capability (Sen 1999) is required and then an appetite to reposition HE from aspirational destination to aspirational ‘node’ (Appadurai 2004).
Appadurai, A. (2004). The Capacity to Aspire: Culture and the Terms of Recognition. In V. Rao & M. Walton (Eds.), Culture and Public Action (pp. 59-84). Stanford: Stanford University Press. Bourdieu, P., with Boltanski, L., Castel, R., Chamboredon, J.-C., & Schnapper, D. (1990). Photography: A Middle-Brow Art (S. Whiteside, Trans.). Cambridge: Polity Press. Burke, P. J. (2012). The Right to Higher Education: Beyond widening participation. London: Routledge. Elster, J. (1983). Sour Grapes: Studies in the subversion of rationality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. de Certeau, M. (1984). The Practice of Everyday Life (S. Rendall, Trans.). Berkeley: University of California Press. Hart, C. S. (2013). Aspirations, Education and Social Justice: Applying Sen and Bourdieu. London: Bloomsbury. Sellar, S., Gale, T., & Parker, S. (2011). Appreciating aspirations in Australian higher education. Cambridge Journal of Education, 41(1), 37-52. Sen, A. (1999). Development as freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Nussbaum, M. C. (2003). Capabilities as Fundamental Entitlements: Sen and Social Justice. Feminist Economics, 9(2-3), 33-59. Nussbaum, M. C. (2000). Women and Human Development: the Capabilities Approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Nussbaum, M. C. (2011). Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press.
- 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.