One-day Conference on Materialities and Mobilities in Education

Monday, January 8th 2018, 10am – 5pm (followed by drinks reception and book launch)

School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford

Keynote speakers:

Michael Donnelly (University of Bristol): ‘Spatial imaginaries’ and the transition to university:  an intersectional analysis of class, ethnicity and place

Kirsty Finn (Lancaster University): Choreographies of belonging: Reimagining ‘local’ students’ everyday (im)mobiities in Higher Education

Call for papers

This one-day event, hosted by the School of Geography and Environment, University of Oxford, offers an opportunity for researchers to consider the much-neglected materialities of educational processes (both historical and contemporary) and how those materialities might intersect with an understanding of educational mobilities, space and place. Examples of ‘materialities’ affecting education might include: infrastructure and modes of transportation, architecture and urban design, furniture, books and stationery, forests and outdoor spaces, and various ‘props’ associated with learning. They may also include the ‘stuff’ of credentialisation (exam scripts, certificates, marketing materials and banners). Our definition of materialities is, of course, not limited to these examples. Alongside this focus on the material is a concomitant interest in mobilities and place; how education is constituted in and through mobilities (from the smallest to the most extensive) and is also embedded in various places. Again, we welcome papers that think through mobilities and place/space in an expansive way.

We welcome both theoretical and more empirically-focused papers, and abstract submissions from ECRs as well as from more established scholars. We encourage participation from those working in sociology, education and geography as well as in cognate disciplines.

Please send abstracts of 200 words to Johanna ( by Monday 6th November. The event is free to attend, although places are limited on a first come, first served basis. Please email Johanna ( or Rachel ( to register.

Convenors: Johanna Waters (University of Oxford) & Rachel Brooks (University of Surrey); Sponsored by the Transformations: Economy, Society and Place research cluster (SoGE)

CfP: Constructing the HE student: understanding spatial variations

Call for Papers: Symposium on ‘Constructing the higher education student: understanding spatial variations’, Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers Annual Conference, 29th August-1st September 2017

I am delighted to be organising a symposium with Johanna Waters (University of Oxford) at the RGS-IBG conference later this year (abstract below). This is sponsored by the Geographies of Children, Youth and Families Research Group (of the Royal Geographical Society), and linked to the EuroStudents research project.

If you would like to take part in the symposium, please send me an abstract by noon on 13th February for consideration (

Many scholars have argued that, in contemporary society, higher education policy and practice have both been profoundly changed by globalising pressures. Indeed, some have contended that the state’s capacity to control education has been significantly limited by the growth of both international organisations and transnational companies (Ball, 2007) and that the three traditional models of university education in Europe (Humboldtian, Napoleonic and Anglo-Saxon) have been replaced by a single Anglo-American model, characterised by, inter alia, competition, marketisation, decentralisation and a focus on entrepreneurial activity. Nevertheless, this analysis is not universally held. For example, not all European nations have sought to establish elite universities or maximise revenue through attracting international students, and significant differences remain in the way in which higher education is funded. In explaining such variations, scholars have pointed to differences in political dynamics, politico-administrative structures and intellectual traditions, as well as the flexibility and mutability of neo-liberal ideas themselves. However, research to date has focussed primarily on the extent of convergence (or divergence) with respect to top-level policies; as a result, little work has explored the perspectives of social actors, nor the ways in which policy may be ‘enacted’ locally, in ways that diverge from formal policy documents.

In this session we intend to bring together papers that explore the ways in which ‘the higher education student’ is constructed across different spatial contexts. We are keen to include papers that draw on data derived from students themselves, as well as from other social actors (such as the media, policymakers and higher education staff). We anticipate that they will speak to debates about what it means to be a young person within the contemporary university, as well as to those that relate more specifically to the geographies of higher education.

Call for papers: Educational Futures and Fractures

The University of Strathclyde is organising a great-looking (free) conference, to be held on 24th February 2017 on ‘Educational Futures and Fractures’. The call for papers is posted below, and the deadline is 30 September.

This conference is driven by a central concern with educational futures, asking what, who and where is the future of Higher Education?  It will focus on transitions in undergraduate, postgraduate and academic staff flows and trajectories, asking what people and places are rendered (im)mobile, what fractures persist as educational fault-lines reconstituting inequalities across time and place, race and ethnicity, class, gender and sexuality? What alternative futures might be claimed amidst educational pressures, economic pressures, competitiveness and ‘failures’? What kinds of teaching practices, politics and activism, might resist the further stratification of educational futures? Conference papers will explore the following themes:

Border pedagogy

Altered borders: creations, transcendences, inventions, repositionings and fortifications
Defining and contesting social, cultural and political boundaries for social-educational change
Symbolic and territorial borders across educational spaces
Multi-raciality and mixedness

Educational Activisms

(Im)mobilities inside-outside academia
Embodied inter-subjectivity in research-activist encounters
Embodiment and pedagogies
Community education and activism


Migrant movements, migrating capital
Accreditation, diploma recognition and capacity building
Institutional prestige, mobilities, constraints

Queer Liminalities

Queer educational agency, ‘failures’ and ‘no’ future?
Sexuality and (trans)gender borders within and beyond the classroom
Safety, visibility, and diversity, decolonization, and co-option/incorporation on campus

Keynote speaker: Dr Rowena Arshad OBE, University of Edinburgh

Confirmed speakers include: Dr Maddie Breeze, Queen Margaret University; Prof. Rachel Brooks, University of Surrey; Dr Cristina Costa, University of Strathclyde; Dr Amy Pressland; Dr Rachel Thwaites, Canterbury Christ Church University; Dr Paul Wakeling, University of York.

Please send abstracts (200-300 words) saving as initial_surname (e.g. Y_Taylor) and a brief bio (100 words) to: by Friday 30th September

Students as agents for change?

Call for papers: Theorizing Citizenship in Higher Education: Students as Agents for Change?

Mark Holton (Plymouth University) and Yi’En Cheng (Yale-NUS College) are organising a session at the American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting 2017 (Boston MA, 5-9 April) on higher education students as active citizens. See call for papers below – it looks like it will be an excellent event, and of interest to sociologists and educationalists, as well as geographers

Citizenship – whether it is constitutional-legal status tied to certain rights and responsibilities; or practiced by people as they navigate obstacles to carve out spaces and communities of belonging; or even as embodied, sensuous, and felt within the psychic and emotional realms – is central to a repertoire of issues in contemporary restructuring of higher education around the world. Recent research has begun to question how various processes are changing students’ ideas and practices around citizenship: from the increasingly globalised networks of students moving around the world to the neoliberalization of higher education policies that have heavily marketized (transnational) degree programmes, term-time accommodation, and student organizations and unions; from the mounting pressure on students to search for and acquire ‘useful’ cultural and embodied capitals, such as critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and global competencies, to the ways in which students’ identities are negotiated, accepted, or rejected on campuses. At the same time, class, gender, race/ethnicity and other social differences continue to act as prisms through which inequalities are [re]produced, even though these can also occur alongside hopeful practices of love, care, solidarity, and anti-injustice. Analyses of interactions across structure, agency, and change are part and parcel of writings about these young people’s educational lives. How might the notion of citizenship help frame these ongoing discussions and/or open up conversations about students-as-citizens? What kinds of citizenships are emerging in these different moments of higher educational change? Relatedly, how can that further our understanding of higher education spaces as contentious, politicized, and possibly radical locations?

In this session, we explore how citizenship can be theorized in diverse contexts of higher education, across both the global north and south. By fostering a dialogue between citizenship studies and geographies of higher education, the session will allow us to rethink and renew the research agenda on the geographies of higher education students. We are interested in multiple ways of thinking about citizenship as informed by students’ experiences during and beyond term-time, their mobilities across various scales and borders, as well as their engagement with explicit and implicit forms of politics. We want to unpack the ways in which dominant understandings of the ‘student voice’ and the ‘student experience’ in higher education are assembled through representations, discourses, and practices of citizenship within particular political-economic and socio-cultural regimes. We are also keen to examine students’ responses to the burdens placed upon them in terms of peer, institutional and policy pressures and the extent to which this might act as potential catalysts for change. Papers that offer fresh materials, theoretically and empirically, to advancing existing scholarship on the geographies of citizenship in higher education and student lives are especially welcomed.

Please submit a 250-word abstract with title and short bio to Mark Holton ( and Yi’En Cheng (, by 20 September 2016.

Call for papers: Eurostudents launch seminar



Wednesday, 21st September 2016, University of Surrey

Keynote speakers: Anna Mountford-Zimdars (King’s College London) and Michael Tomlinson (University of Southampton)

There is some evidence that, at least within countries with neo-liberal welfare regimes, students are constructed largely as consumers with contemporary policy texts. However, there is less consensus about whether or not students have taken up such an identity. Some scholars have assumed that this construction of student-as-consumer is having a profound effect on how students themselves approach HE. Indeed, Molesworth et al. (2009) contend that the inculcation of a consumer identity has brought about a more passive approach to learning, in which students place much more emphasis on their rights rather than their responsibilities, and on having a degree rather than being a learner. Others have, however, argued that, despite the increasing recourse to the language of economics in policy documents (in which students are positioned as consumers and universities as providers), in practice, the behaviour of students does not conform to this model (Dodds, 2011; Williams, 2013). Moreover, research has suggested that such identities may be differentiated by socio-economic characteristics, with only more affluent groups having the capacity to ‘shop around’, unencumbered by financial concerns or the ‘identity risks’ of moving away from home.

This one-day seminar will provide an opportunity to explore our current understandings of the contemporary higher education student, and the extent to which they are shaped by, for example, policymakers, the media, higher education staff and students themselves. Papers may focus on one or more of the following: the impact of tuition fees on understandings of what it means to be a student; students as consumers; media representations of students; students as political actors; policymakers’ understandings of students; and cross-national comparisons. However, other topics, relevant to the seminar theme, are also welcome.

Abstract Submission: Please send abstracts of up to 250 words by 13th May 2016 to Rachel Brooks at the University of Surrey: (There will be a small charge of £30 for attending the seminar.) You can book your place here.

Seminar Organisers: The seminar is organised by Rachel Brooks and colleagues in the Department of Sociology at the University of Surrey. It will help to launch the five-year EuroStudents research project based at Surrey, which investigates understandings of the higher education student across six different European countries.

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What should education look like in the future?

‘Thinking the yet to be thought: Education for the future’

What should education look like in the future?

Traditional? Classical? Technology-focussed? Entirely optional? Schools in the Cloud? Global universities? Homeschooling? Entirely vocational? Predominantly online? Skills-based? Project-based? De-schooling? Freeschooling? Democratic? Radical? As it is now? What?

Our sixth ESRC seminar series event, to be held in Cardiff on 5thF2L1F2L2 July will focus on the question of what ‘education for the future’ should look like.

We recognise that there are a wide variety of opinions on this, and therefore, we offer participants the chance to pitch arguments and persuade the audience.

We are looking for pitches of up to 15 minutes. These can take any format, including formal presentation, soap-box style, demonstration, speeches, or anything else.  We welcome all views, including provocative ones. The aim of the pitches should be to engage the audience and to make us think differently about education. ‘Education’ can refer to schools, colleges, universities, adult education, informal learning, community work.

Please send an abstract/summary of up to 200 words. We will choose a good range of pitches from these so as to make for a lively event.

Abstracts to be sent to or by Tuesday 31 May 2016.

Call for papers: Autonomous and alternative pedagogies for a socially just education

Special Issue of ‘Forum’: Freedom to Learn: autonomous and alternative pedagogies for a socially just education

Special issue editors: Dr Max Hope and Professor Catherine Montgomery, University of Hull

This proposal for a specialFreedom to Learn issue of FORUM Journal invites written contributions which explore the idea of a socially just education system focusing on how such a system might address inequalities in society. The issue will explore alternative and innovative examples and ideas from schools and universities across a range of countries (including Denmark and the USA) and consider whether these alternatives may illuminate approaches to reducing social and educational inequality.

Political, organisational and cultural pressures make it challenging for people to consider alternatives to the mainstream. The special issue will encourage its readers to reflect on their own educational assumptions, practices, and systems so as to be open to possibilities of doing things differently. In order to challenge current thinking as much as possible, the issue will invite contributors who are able to focus attention on radical alternatives in education. Both researchers and practitioners focusing on innovative and new ways of operating will be encouraged to contribute. These examples are not being showcased as ideal models to emulate but as a means of envisioning alternatives to the systems that dominate in society. By doing this, the issue will stimulate ideas and discussion around ways that have ‘yet to be thought’, to transform education for the future.

It is hoped that the alternative examples presented may offer an insight into how to improve education for all. Contributions will be expected to centre on the characteristics of a socially just education system and consider how new perspectives on social justice in education might enable social inequalities to be addressed, exploring these possibilities against the current performative and neo-liberal educational context of 2016. Thus articles which centre on the issue of enhancing social justice accompanied by a critical questioning of contemporary political narratives will be particularly welcomed.

The issue aims to be cross-sectoral, covering opinions and research around both pre-school, school and post 18 provision, drawing together a combination of contributions from both eminent international researchers and practitioners working in different fields. FORUM’s remit is 3-19 education, so the Special Issue will aim to include written pieces which focus on Early Years Foundation Stage, and pre-statutory provision as well as secondary and post-secondary education.  Formats will be flexible and papers will be welcomed from academics involved in research, school and university practitioners and policy makers and other community groups. The journal’s audience includes practitioners as well as academics and policy-makers and thus a broadly-accessible writing-style is welcomed.

FORUM has a long history dating back almost 60 years and during that time has been publishing topical and informed analysis – very often highly forthright and critical – of all aspects of United Kingdom government policy as it influences the education of children from primary through to higher education. FORUM vigorously campaigns for the universal provision of state-provided education. Contributions are not drawn only from the familiar sources in universities and colleges, but also in large numbers from teachers, writing of their own experiences in the classroom.

How to contribute

The special issue will consist of a combination of invited submissions and an open call for papers.

If you would like to contribute to the special issue you should send an abstract of no more than 300 words to and no later than Friday 15th April 2016. There will be an editorial review process and the timeline is as follows:

Submission of abstracts: deadline 15 April 2016

Submission of full papers: deadline 27 May 2016

Final draft (following editorial review): deadline 15 June 2016

Publication of special issue: Due Autumn 2016