We are all familiar with the lament over the increasing marketisation of higher education. The narrative is that students are anxious about steadily increasing tuition fees, uncertain about their future employment, and largely disengaged with their own learning experiences. Staff, meanwhile, are exploited by progressively more precarious working conditions and pressured by an audit culture that regulates their research and teaching activities. While productive spaces have been opened up by collaborations between students and staff — most notably in students-as-partners projects around learning and teaching — there is room for more dialogue to unpack common assumptions and question the status quo in higher education. Students are speaking up in a range of political contexts that show their commitment to education now and in the future.
This one-day symposium hopes to break down the perceived hierarchical barriers in discussions about the current and future state of higher education, by developing a two-way dialogue between staff and students. Participants will be encouraged to engage in roundtable discussions that will provide a snapshot of the key issues facing both staff and students, and to collaboratively work towards providing recommendations for resolving these issues and a renewed sense of purpose for our collaborative engagement with higher education. The questions that underpin the round-table discussions include:
What challenges do students and staff face in the current university, and what opportunities might lie ahead?
What are the intersections between politics and higher education, and how might they be more productively navigated?
How might students and staff work collaboratively towards a renewed sense of purpose in higher education?
The anticipated outcome of this symposium is a collaborative research article that captures the key ideas and subsequent dialogue from student/staff perspectives.