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Session Overview
RN10_01b_IC: Higher Education: Challenges and Strategies
Wednesday, 30/Aug/2017:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Mieke Van Houtte, Ghent University
Location: Intercontinental - Athenaeum CC II
Athenaeum Intercontinental Hotel Syngrou Avenue 89-93 Athens, Greece Floor: Lobby Level

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The missing link between politicians and social scientists in establishing the EHEA

Jana Heinz

Technische Universität München, Germany

Education as the new fault line in society can also be noticed in the area of European higher education (EHEA). Thus, the European Union receives European higher education and research as important stakeholders in the global competition for economic growth and social participation. Consequently, following the Bologna Processes (BP) competitive tools and neo-liberal policies have been incorporated in the name of transparency and need for improvement.

In the framework of these changes, I analyse policy actors’ documents and social scientists’ articles on the BP and the emerging EHEA. Based on this second-order analyses I ask (1) how relevant actors in policy and social sciences create the EHEA and (2) how they influence each other.

Empirical analyses were conducted by means of discourse analyses of policy reports, such as the Bologna communiques, implementation reports and about 200 articles from social sciences between 2003 and 2015 with a focus on the BP/EHEA.

Results show that generally politicians’ reports have no link to social sciences’ analyses of the BP and the emerging EHEA, instead, BP actors assign their own statistical research centres to collect data. On the other side, socials scientists tend to analyse developments initiated by political actors within discipline specific frames of theories and methods. Similarly, the majority of articles do not go beyond their scientific field by explaining why and how policy could employ the studies’ findings. Thus, the pictures arises that social scientists predominantly leave the field to politicians in creating the EHEA.

Coping with higher educational expectations: Gender, class and unequal challenges in prestigious contexts

Anne-Sofie Nyström1, Carolyn Jackson2, Minna Saminen Karlsson1

1Center for Gender Research, Uppsala University, Sweden; 2Dept. of Educational Research, Lancaster University, UK

This paper explore the challenges of coping with prestigious and competitive HE programmes. How do different learning and social contexts, gender and class, inform students’ experiences of stress and strategies manage these? The analysis is informed by sociological stress research and theories about self-worth and social identity. We draw upon data from a large, ongoing, three-year (2015-2018), cross-national (Sweden and England) comparative interview project that investigates student identities, masculinities and academic failure and success in Medicine, Law and Engineering physics. Data are being generated by focus group interviews and individual interviews with students and staff, and analyzed in Atlas.ti using a constructivist grounded theory approach. Our data suggest that these programmes, in part, attracted students because of being renowned as challenging. However, most had not anticipated the challenges in terms of their academic identities; many students had to negotiate a change from being a top student to being an ‘average’ or ‘low’ achiever, and many struggled with to find a sustainable work/rest balance. Students used a multitude of strategies which we explore in relation to gender and class; e.g. increased academic effort and withdrawal from other activities, displaying calmness and concealing poor test results, and, also, seeking academic and emotional support from peers. By examining undergraduate stress and well-being in prestigious contexts, we will begin to shed more light on (1) how privilege are maintained, reinforced, and might be challenged, and, also, (2) the pressures and demands on many middle-class young people and the effects on their wellbeing.

The Collegiate Experience and Students’ Values

Dwight Neil Haase

United Arab Emirates University, United Arab Emirates

The current political climate in the US is not only anti-establishment, but also decidedly anti-academia. News media commentators have labeled academics the “totalitarian left,” and an online blacklist now contains the names of over 100 liberal and leftist professors. And while these anti-academic sentiments currently are waxing, they are not new. For example, Joseph McCarthy targeted academics in his attempts to purge leftist movements in the 1960s, and 12 years ago commentator David Horowitz released a highly publicized book identifying professors he claimed were dangerous because of their liberal views.

In spite of these allegations, no evidence has been shown that college students are being indoctrinated or even swayed by their professors’ views. Our research attempts to ascertain what effect the collegiate experience has on students’ values by comparing responses to the World Values Survey questionnaire for students at the University of Toledo with varying years of enrollment in various disciplines. The findings shows that the collegiate experience has little or no effect on personal values, but it has a slight moderating effect on students’ political values – reducing the incidence of extreme views on both the left and right. We conclude that certain politicians and commentators perhaps should feel threatened by academics not because their values are diametrically opposed, but because college encourages more nuanced and qualified thinking, which is not conducive to the current wave of populism.

The findings also show that religiosity is the best predictor of college students’ values, which the authors discuss in the context of other studies of the collegiate experience and student outcomes.

Practices and strategies of student and their parents for higher education. The case of orientation forums for higher education in "Ile de France"

Anne-Claudine Oller1, Jessica Pothet2, Agnès van Zanten3

1OSC-LIEPP-Sciences Po/LIRTES-UPEC, France; 22L2S-ESPE de Lorraine-Université de Lorraine; 3OSC-LIEPP-Sciences Po

If the ratio of access to higher education (HE) has progressed and keeps itself at high levels in France, the real side-effects of HE democratization are small (Albouy, Tavan, 2007). Huge inequalities and disparities persist. Our study proposes to analyze more carefully the strategies and behaviors developed by parents and students during the orientation process to HE.

The enquiry is dealing with the role of families and friends network, scholars institutions and markets for orientation to HE. The analyze will deal with orientation forums for HE of the Île-De-France. This inquiry combines both qualitative (observation of 15 orientation forums) and quantitative (a questionnaire was submitted to 1000 students and 1000 parents visiting orientation forums) methods.

There is a huge over representation of middle classes and middle-high classes, especially in the private pole of middle classes (van Zanten, 2009). Parents turn to a bunch of supports considered as things able to give them skills in the optic of being able to guide correctly their children in their orientation choices.

Orientation forums are identified by parents as a place of information on HE. However, the whole spectrum of HE is far from representing, not only in a fair manner, but also in a way as objective as possible. These forums are places of prescriptions, which, by delegating the social links part in the construction of students’ trajectories, are addressed in fine to students from middle and upper class.


Albouy V., Tavan Ch., 2007, « Accès à l'enseignement supérieur en France : une démocratisation réelle mais de faible ampleur », Economie et statistique, 401.

van Zanten A., 2009, Choisir son école. Stratégies familiales et médiations locales, Paris, PUF.

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