22 SES 08 B, Inclusion and Diversity in Higher Education Settings
According to some research Black and Minority Ethnic students are proportionately over represented in the Higher Education sector (in Britain). However, universities in Britain continue to be White and middle class dominated institutions. Nevertheless, one might expect that once at university issues of racial prejudice and White fear of the Other would have subsided. We found however, in our two year qualitative Higher Education Academy (HEA) funded study (Formations of Gender and Higher Education Pedagogies –GAP: 2010-2012) White fear and raced and classed as well as gendered, antagonisms, frequently defined or underpinned the student experience. The context of the research is that of a highly competitive, neo-liberal higher education system. More recently this has been exacerbated by the increase in student fees, resulting in anxieties around authenticity: both in terms of the ‘authentic university’ and the ‘authentic student’. Claims of “pointless degrees” and questionable universities raise the spectre of the ‘authentic’ (Taylor 1992) university, the ‘authentic student (Reay 2002) and ‘authentic’ subject (Bourdieu 1988) of study. Therefore whilst recognising the important achievements of Widening Participation the position of marginalised groups remains problematic once at university (see for example Crozier et al 2008; Reay et al 2010). Coupled with this is the criticism of the putative feminisation of Higher Education. The discussion in this paper centres more on perceptions of the ‘authentic student’ and their implications. Drawing on interview and observation data and field notes of the social and the academic milieux, I will discuss the apparent impact of White student ambitions and competitiveness for success on their attitudes and behaviours towards the raced and classed and gendered Other who they regard as threatening. Within this context I demonstrate and analyse, albeit unintentional, racialised social segregation which in some disciplines is replicated in the learning context. The focus is on student peer relationships within the formal learning context and social environment and how these impact on raced, classed and gendered identities and the experiences of the learner. The paper explores whether the discourse of ‘authenticity’ has implications for the students’ learning and view of themselves.
The social aspects of education and learning are crucial for success. In our data it has become clear how friendship groupings act as a forum for the development of identities’ constructions and stereotypes which at times symbolise difference; this in turn impacts on or reinforces those constructions. Boundary issues and the imposition of identity allegiances and roles are thus key themes identified from the data in the GAP project. In this paper I will discuss whether social identities act as boundaries of constraint in relation to social interactions and whether this has an impact on students’ learning experiences. As part of this I will analyse the social antagonisms expressed largely by White male students of the women students, and of male, Black and working class students (both Black and White).
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