Maggie Hutchings and myself went to the SRHE’s international conference in Wales to present our research exploring ideas of organisational learning and widening participation.
The theme of the conference was Exploring Freedom and Control in global higher education. The thread running through the whole event was a reassertion of education as, and for, a more equitable, more empowering and more socially just world. Particularly at times when hope seems hard to grasp.
A series of papers exploring the time and temporality of higher education afforded the opportunity to reflect on how the future is all too often seen a blank slate — somehow out of time of the personal, ecological and political winds that shape, bend and sometimes break our lives, hearts and minds.
Another group of papers (shared from this brand new edited collection) asked us to draw on broad theoretical approaches when thinking about widening participation. Whether it was attending to theories of risk or capabilities approaches to student success, these papers create a rich landscape for thinking about, and doing, widening participation work across the globe.
Given the theme of the conference, many of the papers explored how to make and share research with, and for, public engagement. The importance of building trust between different communities through learning to work together for freedom emerged as critically important.
Taking time to listen to and learn with human stories, even if they are scraps of paper passed between hands, can provide powerful narratives to inform and influence policy, engage people and make changes in practice. To play with Lynda Barry‘s phrase: we don’t do research to escape reality, we do it to be able to stay.
Thank you to all those who shared their work and their time over the course of the week. And a big thank you to the organisers for creating a genuinely nourishing learning community.