International Research Conference, Lancaster UK, 18 - 20 July 2016
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Recognition in Higher Education-Students Who Care for Children while at University

Samuel Dent, Sheffield Hallam University


Enabling social justice and social mobility through widening participation in higher education is increasingly becoming a complex socio-political issue, as groups of students move into and out of policy and practice focus, offering the opportunity to leave some students 'misrecognised' (Fraser 2013) as deserving of access to UK universities (Bowl and Hughes 2013, Stevenson, Clegg and Lefever 2010, Burke 2012). Current research would suggest students who care for children, are an example of such misrecognised groups of students; they do not featured specifically as the beneficiaries of widening participation policy, and are uncaptured by student demographic data (NUS 2009), while also experiencing numerous barriers specifically orientated around their status as carers for children. (Brooks, 2012; Moreau 2015) This paper focuses on the application of Nancy Frasers theories of recognition (Fraser 2001) and their application to redressing social inequalities in higher education, using the experiences of students who care for children as a case study. Mobilising a Frasarian analysis I deconstruct the experiences of these students, drawing on the accounts of 16 student participants and 7 staff, from a two-year in-depth institutional ethnographic study at a research intensive university in the North of England. I suggest the students in my study acquire knowledge as they navigate through their institution which is misrecognised within their institution as valuable. This can mean that some students become framed as problematic within this institutional setting, which can at times be seen to be heavily process driven, and can lack a coherent and reflexive conception of social justice, which can lead to students being misrecognised as being deserving and undeserving of support in this institution. In concluding this paper I suggest that Fraser’s theories can pose new and creative ways to consider widening participation practices. Arguing that Frasers theories offer a coherent theory of social justice with which to address the complex web of economic, socio-political, and cultural barriers, which interplay to generate the social inequalities in these student’s experience. I suggest applying Frasers theories could be used by universities to engage explicitly with a reflexive discourse of social justice which could be used to inform and shape their policy and practice, and provide greater recognition to more diverse groups such as students who care for children.


Recognition, Widening Participation, Higher Education, Diversity, Care, Students Who Care for Children,

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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