Is ‘student engagement’ just a mirage? The case for student activism

Danvers, Emily Clair and Gagnon, Jessica (2014) Is ‘student engagement’ just a mirage? The case for student activism. Student Engagement and Experience Journal, 3 (2). ISSN 2047-9476

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This paper considers the positioning of student campus activism within a discourse of student engagement to explore how student engagement becomes framed as legitimate/ illegitimate. Using pivotal points within the 2012-14 Sussex Against Privatisation/Occupy Sussex campaigns at the University of Sussex; we compare how student activists construct themselves with how they are constructed by the university administration. Our focus is on how student activists are positioned as troublemakers, lacking valid critical capacity and incapable of independent, mature, reasoned political positioning. We argue that the construction of student activist identities as immature and dangerous both devalues the agency of the protestors but also demonstrates how student engagement is shaped by normative discourses of what constitutes a legitimately engaged student in higher education. Positioning students as being problematic and misguided is potentially incongruous with discourses of students as consumers, as partners and as producers. We propose that in many cases, student engagement is simply a mirage for other organisational practices and that the concept is limited and can be limiting. The relationship between student engagement and activism is explored using Ahmed’s (2012) work on non-performative concepts and what it means to speak in and about higher education.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Education and Social Work > Education
School of Education and Social Work > Social Work and Social Care
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher education
Depositing User: Emily Danvers
Date Deposited: 06 Jan 2015 15:09
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2017 03:00

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