Past Event details

Higher Education as if the World Mattered (Edinburgh)

Thursday, 25 April 2013 - Friday, 26 April 2013

‘Higher Education as if the World Mattered’

A conference to be held on 25 and 26 April 2013 organised by:
The Higher Education Research Group (Institute for Education, Community and Society, The University of Edinburgh) in partnership with
The Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE)


Higher education matters in this world. Indeed, it matters more than ever before in its long history. In the so-called ‘knowledge economy’ and ‘knowledge society’ higher education is high on every government’s agenda. Higher education, or more precisely the returns expected from investments into higher education, is seen to matter profoundly. But the title of this symposium is precisely not ‘The world as if higher education mattered’. In the current social, political and economic context such a statement would become meaningless, confusing even. It would be like saying ‘Water as if life mattered’. Of course it does. However, when turned around as in ‘Higher Education as if the World Mattered’ it makes us ‘stop and think’. Now the words ‘as if’ assume significance as they imply that there are some real questions to be asked about the extent to which the world is seen to matter in the present policy context characterising higher education.

Viewed in most general terms, the world is the physical and social space that we share with our fellow human beings and non-human species. It involves the various local communities and indeed the global community with whom we live together and with whom we share our natural environment, our planet and the universe. Of course, some may observe, higher education matters because the world matters! Investment in higher education, it might be said, is profoundly important for the world, and not only in developing countries. While this surely is the case, the point is that the value attached to higher education is increasingly seen in economic terms thereby risking that we lose sight of the other goods associated with higher education. We might ask, therefore, to what extent, the increased emphasis on economic returns is associated with a neglect of cultivating and demonstrating a real care for our social and natural world.

While higher education is known to enhance people’s life chances, questions remain to be asked about how the goods to be gained from higher education are presently distributed. Despite policies that are meant to increase access to higher education for under-represented sections of society we know that in a highly stratified society and higher education system even widened entry does not guarantee greater social justice in relation to access, for example. Against this backdrop, broad questions that the symposium will address include: To what extent and how do higher education policies and practices make a difference to this world? What are present priorities and how could things be otherwise? To what extent does higher education address community and environmental concerns?  To what extent are participants encouraged to make a contribution to the world?

This conference, and a book that will be associated with it, therefore, seek to explore social justice in and through higher education by examining recent policies and practices in relation to six broad strands of higher education: Research and knowledge mobilisation; Curriculum; Pedagogy; Access and participation; Institutional leadership; Quality and educational development. Contributions in each section seek to analyse the assumptions underpinning policy and practice, arrive at judgements about the extent to which the world is seen to matter and offer suggestions on how things could be different from how they are. Running across these six strands are concerns related to internationalisation, funding, and lifelong learning.
Keynote Speakers
Professor Melanie Walker, Free State University, South Africa
Professor Monica McLean, University of Nottingham, UK
Professor Jon Nixon, Senior Research Fellow, Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIE), and Honorary Professor, University of Sheffield, UK
Professor Ray Land, Durham University, UK
For Keynote speaker abstracts and biographies, click here

Author submissions
All submissions are subject to a blind peer review process. Proposals are invited for Individual Papers. Each paper accepted for individual presentation will be allocated a minimum of 30 minutes for presentation and discussion.

Timetable for submissions
All proposals must be submitted via email to The deadline for submission is 1 March 2013.

Call for papers- Format for submissions
To maintain the high quality of papers presented at the conference, and ensure that the review process has access to a sufficient level of detail on paper proposals to take an informed view, submitting authors are asked to provide a short paper for peer review in two parts.

Please note that both parts will be required at the point of first submission, but there will be no subsequent call for fuller papers for accepted abstracts.

• Part 1 Abstract: a 150 word summary of the proposal which will be printed in the published conference programme and also made available at conference on the CD Rom.
• Part 2 Outline: a maximum 1000 word paper (not including references)

Conference Venue
The symposium will take place at Paterson’s Land, Moray House School of Education, Holyrood Road, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH8 8AQ. All rooms are equipped with a screen and laptop. 

The School of Education is located in the picturesque Old Town area (off the Royal Mile, or Canongate).  It is a 10 minute walk (or three minute taxi ride) from Edinburgh Waverley train station to the School of Education.  The City of Edinburgh is easily reachable by train and most airlines (Easyjet and Ryanair offer low-budget flights from several cities in England). Travel from Edinburgh Airport to the City Centre (final stop at Waverly Bridge, right opposite Waverley Station) by Airlink bus service takes approximately 30 minutes (and a single journey costs £3.50) and by taxi the cost is between £18 and £20.

 The City of Edinburgh offers many attractions for conference participants considering spending the weekend. It also features a wide range of cafés, bistros and restaurants and a good number of reasonably priced hotels close to the conference venue (e.g., IBIS at Grassmarket, The Jurys Inn on Jeffrey Street, The Travel Lodge on St Mary’s Street, and the highly praised Salisbury Green Hotel, situated on the University’s own premises at Pollock Halls). 

Conference Fees
Fees are £150 (£130 for SRHE members) and include all refreshments during the day on both days (excluding dinner) and the conference programme. Any overnight accommodation is to be organised and paid directly by delegates. Sorry, there are no single day fees.
Employees of the University of Edinburgh may attend free of charge, but must register in order to attend this event, and should e-mail their full name, contact details and any special or dietary requirements to Nicola Manches at

Further Information
If you require any further information or assistance, please contact the Conference Organiser, Francois Smit at

Conference Director: Carolin Kreber, Institute for Education, Community and Society, The University of Edinburgh.

Network: SRHE Event
Date(s): Thursday, 25 April 2013 - Friday, 26 April 2013
Times: 10.30-17.15 (Day 1) 09.00-16.00 (Day 2)
Location: University of Edinburgh
This event has expired

Event Files
File Details Download
Threshold concepts of facilitation: A Journey
On the impulse of University Civic Participation, A specific case
Student-Generated Induction: A Social Identity Approach for a Complex World
Can a policy of open access to part-time HE make a difference to social justice?
Degrees of Hope: Navigating Migration and Motherhood in Higher Education
Higher Education in an economic and political dominated reality: A Critical Policy Analysis of Higher Education Expansion in China since 1999
An examination of the coherence between the National Educational Strategy in Ireland and the results of a study examining the First Year Student Experience
Social Entrepreneurship as if Education mattered
Encouraging the disposition to understand for oneself and others
Gulaged Identities: Engaging with the Kazakhstani context to understand students’ critical participation
Beyond Leadership by PowerPoint
Improving Academic Feedback – Turning the ship around with the power of 1000 students
Widening participation - social justice or social injustice?
Cross-Roads and Paradoxes: The Quest of Academics for and in Professional Innovation
Professional education as if social relations mattered
An Exploratory Study on Questioning Beliefs about Teaching with Technology
Educating for ‘civic mindedness’: Towards transformative professional education
Students’ Experiences at the Open University of Tanzania: Reflections on Teaching and Support Practices in Rural Tanzania.
Higher Education as if the prevailing world mattered less: moments in other places
The curriculum: including the voice of experience
Policy and Legislative Challenges in South African Higher Education: Implications for Institutional Governance
Governmental and institutional impacts on teaching practices in an Icelandic university
Developing Student Character through Disciplinary Curricula: An Analysis of QAA Subject Benchmark Statements
Exploring ethical questions with students of business management: an analysis
‘Arguing against the word of God’ pedagogy, sexuality and the power of student discussion.
Radicalising intellectual work: Inside and outside the academy
Purpose and consequence: making the world matter
Neighbourhood effects: towards a reconciliation of human capital and the ‘public good’ in higher education
Idea of a University and European Values: Collapse or Renaissance?
Activism and the academy: assembling knowledge for social justice
In pursuit of (e)quality: The response of elite Australian universities to government policies of equity and access and what it reveals about what ‘world’ matters to them
Ray Land presentation
Something at stake’: pedagogies of risk in a globalised world
Jon Nixon´s paper
Becoming Worldly: Why Universities Matter
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