International Research Conference, Lancaster UK, 18 - 20 July 2016
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Social Justice, Higher Education and the Oneness of Humankind

Filip Boicu University of Nottingham


Although their operations remain crucial at national and local levels, universities should no longer be presumed to have primarily a national or local function; today they are the knowledge institutions and global actors responsible for our collective survival as humanity. Paradoxically, universities have moved away from notions of public good and have been reconfigured as commercial enterprises competing for economic power precisely at a time when exploding social inequality between different sectors and substrata of humanity demands we redefine the human being in a global manner. From this perspective, a unifying notion of social justice should be developed that can challenge structural inequalities in relation to global processes, engaging directly with long-term processes of marginalization based on nationality, ethnicity, race, social class, gender or disability etc. Such definitions of social justice would have to go much beyond the typical half-heartedly asserted concern with widening access or participation and, essentially, also beyond a focus with inequality at only the level of the nation. As it stands, there are serious limitations. From the outside, universities are severely contrained by an agenda of competition in the world market and their pursuit for global status as well as pressures to act as influential agents on behalf of competing nations. Having been captured for the reproduction of elites and particular social groups in society, they are heavily invested in long-term processes of marginalization. From the inside, universities are constantly being internally reconfigured according to marketization principles and management-type ideologies, while also facing great epistemological uncertainty in terms of their main mission and goals. In this paper, I attempt to explore how notions of social justice and of higher education as a public good can be reconfigured and connected to a positive project or ideology for the university through the notion that we are all first and foremost human beings and that the process of globalization can be understood to ultimately highlight this basic unity existing in the body of humanity. While the first part of the paper proposes the notion of the oneness of humankind as a potent overarching concept in addressing multiple aspects of social justice, the second part discusses how this could be attempted through the medium of universities, and how universities themselves could be redefined in turn by the adoption of such a project or perspective. Finally, this perspective is also compared and contrasted with current themes of internationalization in higher education.


Social justice, oppression, inequality, higher education, globalization, oneness of humankind

Link to Full Paper


Conference Organisers

Paul Trowler
Lancaster University, UK

Alice Jesmont
Lancaster University, UK

Malcolm Tight
Lancaster University, UK

Paul Ashwin
Lancaster University, UK

Murray Saunders
Lancaster University, UK

Chrissie Boughey
Rhodes University, South Africa

Suellen Shay
University of Cape Town, SA

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