Vortrag | Inequality in Higher Education | 14.11.2017

Vortrag von Prof. Dr. Sarah O‘Shea (Univer­sity of Wollon­gong, Australia)

Die Veran­stal­tung findet am

Dienstag, den 14. November 2017 von 12:30-14:30 Uhr

im Teaching Center (TC 4.18) der WU statt.

Aus orga­ni­sa­to­ri­schen Gründen bitten wir höflich um Anmel­dung bis zum 07.11.2017 unter fran­ziska.less­ky@wu.ac.at.

Inves­ti­ga­ting conflicts and free­doms in the higher educa­tion envi­ron­ment: Unpacking the capa­bi­li­ties and capi­tals of firs­t-in-­fa­mily lear­ners


It’s very much like moving to a foreign country where you don't speak the language”. The quote above is from an inter­view with Marilyn, a 31-ye­ar-old first year under­gra­duate student, under­ta­king a Busi­ness degree. Marilyn was the first in her family (inclu­ding her partner) to attend univer­sity and while she had completed high school, had been out of educa­tion for over a decade. As Marilyn’s state­ment indi­cates her journey to univer­sity was somewhat chal­len­ging, not least of which was her percep­tion of being a traveller in an alien envi­ron­ment. Within Australia, where this study occurred, firs­t-in-­fa­mily (FiF) lear­ners comprise over 50% of the HE student popu­la­tion and rese­arch indi­cates that this cohort is at greater risk of attri­tion. This diverse student popu­la­tion is frequently inter­sected by various equity cate­go­ri­sa­tions and students have described, in inter­views and surveys , a range of conflic­ting and deman­ding respon­si­bi­li­ties in their lives. For students like Marilyn, simply gaining entry to univer­sity is a complex and diffi­cult under­ta­king but once arrived, the free­doms asso­ciated with attai­ning a degree may also be cons­trained.

The focus in this presen­ta­tion is the ways in which students’ actions and beha­viours in the higher educa­tion envi­ron­ment can be related to under­stan­dings of capa­bi­li­ties and capi­tals. Applying the comple­men­tary theo­re­tical lenses of Bour­dieu (1986; 1992), Yosso (2005) and Sen (1992; 1999), this rese­arch explores the various ‘conflicts’ and ‘free­doms’ lear­ners encoun­tered within this envi­ron­ment. Findings inform under­stan­dings about the inter­ac­tions that occur between students’ exis­ting capi­tals and capa­bi­li­ties and those expected within the univer­sity envi­ron­ment. A focus that reco­gnises how some student cohorts ‘…are unable to enact the student role in the ways expected by univer­sity discourses’ (O’Shea, 2015, p. 255). In summary, the presen­ta­tion hopes to provide the basis for further under­stan­ding of how the self and exis­ting capi­tals are drawn upon when students from diverse back­grounds tran­si­tion into, and engage with, higher educa­tion envi­ron­ments. These insights can be used to improve the student expe­ri­ence for diverse cohorts, perhaps relie­ving some of the ‘tensions’ around perceived free­doms to access univer­sity.

About the speaker:

Sarah O’Shea has spent over twenty years working to effect change within the higher educa­tion sector through rese­arch that focuses on the access and parti­ci­pa­tion of students from iden­ti­fied equity groups. Her insti­tu­tional and natio­nally funded rese­arch studies advance under­stan­ding of how under-­re­pre­sented student cohorts enact success within univer­sity, navi­gate tran­si­tion into this envi­ron­ment, manage compe­ting iden­ti­ties and nego­tiate aspi­ra­tions for self and others. This work is highly regarded for applying diverse concep­tual and theo­re­tical lenses to tertiary parti­ci­pa­tion, which incor­po­rate theo­ries of social class, iden­tity work, gender studies and poverty. Since 2011, Sarah has obtained over $1 million dollars in rese­arch funding, all of which explores educa­tional equity in the HE envi­ron­ment. In 2016, she was awarded an ARC Disco­very project explo­ring the persis­tence and reten­tion of students who are the first in their fami­lies to come to univer­sity. This national study builds upon an Austra­lian Govern­ment Teaching and Learning Fellowship (2015-2016) and conso­li­dates a decade of work in the student reten­tion field, which has focussed on students from a diver­sity of back­grounds.

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