International Research Conference, Lancaster UK, 18 - 20 July 2016
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Higher education initial professional education for youth and community workers: a serious game

Pat Norris, York St John University


This paper considers the experience of academics involved in the initial professional education (Ebbutt, 1996) of youth and community workers in the UK. Bourdieu’s concept of ‘illusio’ is used to explore why and how academics continue to teach on and champion programmes. There is limited research into youth and community worker education generally, with very little research specifically exploring the changing nature of these higher education programmes post-2010 and what this means for academics. Professional education in this context is closely connected to both higher education and wider social policy. Changing policy directions, based on models of marketisation and austerity, affect public services and higher education programmes. Academics in this field identify a detrimental effect (Bright, 2015) on youth and community work practice. This includes moves to youth social work (Bradford and Cullen, 2014), a loss of community-based educational opportunity and the closing services (NYA, 2014). Cooper (2014) raises the symbolic violence enacted through limiting young people’s access to space (within youth work) for critical dialogue and denying young people the means to acquire the skills to address oppressive factors within their lives. More generally, professionalism in public services (Colley, 2012) is being challenged and undermined. The rational for this research is to explore how academics teaching youth and community work experience and navigate these changes. A phenomenological approach is used to explore the range experiences amongst academics teaching on active and closing programmes and to identify shared features. Sampling is organised using a spatial framework based on UK regional areas, with an invitation to one member of a higher education programme team in a region. Data from an individual, semi-structured research conversation lasting 45-50 minutes is transcribed and analysed. Findings include firstly a concern for the future scope of higher education through the removal of a counterbalance to elite programmes within higher education. The overriding importance of student recruitment to programme survival. The changing nature of teaching within programmes. How academics draw on habitus as a source of support. And finally how academics fear for the silencing of a critical pedagogic approach within communities, founded on emancipatory principles. This paper concludes firstly that academics are experiencing multiple influences caused by policy tensions that affect their role and work. Secondly, that academics see an alignment within their work to multiple issues of social justice and link this to their on-going investment in youth and community worker education.


Youth and community worker; Bourdieu; illusio; marketisation, values; initial professional education

Link to Full Paper (If submitted)


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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