A recent post on this blog by Penny-Jane Burke referred to the idea of ‘raising aspirations’ as a central motif of government higher education policy. This discourse of ‘raising aspiration’ endures within recent higher education policy as well as the government’s social mobility agenda and is far from new. It is not only a routine feature of national policy. It also permeates the institutional policies of the full spectrum of higher education institutions. From traditional, elite institutions such as Oxford to newer ones such as Plymouth or Bucks New University, many continue to use the term raising aspiration in promotional material. Continue reading Education and equality: A critique of the ‘poverty of aspiration’ agenda
Below I discuss two concerns which have preoccupied me for a while now.
Since the 1960s’s in schools and educational policy discourse much has been made about the lower attainment of Black children (but specifically Black Caribbean) and the perceived lack of parental valuing of education, and supporting their children’s educational attainment. So it was no surprise to hear a teacher at a conference (aimed at encouraging Black children to consider careers requiring higher education study) in 2009 point to Black educational failure being cultural and innate, and questioning whether ‘Black people’s culture predisposed them to underachievement’. Some might consider this a statement of fact given the persistent lower attainment of Black Caribbean students vis-à-vis White British students. While the comment by the teacher incensed me, it did not affect me as much as I was by a Black teenager at the conference who said, ‘lots of people say we can’t do it, people like me are a failure’. Continue reading Teaching Black children
The hegemony of global neoliberalism has gradually transformed the landscape of higher education, profoundly reorienting equity discourses away from social justice and towards economic imperatives. Struggles over the right to higher education have been articulated over the past 15 years through the now well-established ‘widening participation’ (WP) policy agenda. When New Labour came to power in 1997, it placed WP at the heart of higher education reforms, with a strong and enduring emphasis on ‘raising aspirations’. WP continues to be a central tenet of HE policy under the 2010 Coalition government, attracting considerable public and higher education institution (HEI) funding. Continue reading Access to and Widening Participation in Higher Education
Increasing the representation of women in STEM education and employment has been a long-term policy goal of both the Labour and Coalition governments. They have been motivated by concerns over equity in the STEM workforce and about maintaining national economic competitiveness. Initiatives to increase women’s participation in STEM began before these policies with feminist activism in the 1980s. The approaches developed there have continued, within organisations such as WISE (Women Into Science and Engineering), alongside corporate and policy schemes. Continue reading Gender and STEM