Nottingham Branch Seminar
There are widespread concerns that the increase does not include those from the most disadvantaged groups; and, that in a stratified, hierarchical system, lower-status institutions offer a lower quality education to their relatively disadvantaged students. In the seminar, I will focus mainly on participation in the academic (rather than social) experience of university. The key proposal for discussion is that at university ‘epistemic justice’ is served by students gaining ‘epistemological access’ to the disciplines, inter-disciplines and fields that they study. The key question is whether epistemic justice is equally distributed in a stratified higher education system. Purchase on this question is offered by Miranda Fricker’s (2007) concept of ‘hermeneutic injustice’ which is done to a person who is not given access to knowledge which makes them a credible knower. Wally Morrow (2009) was a leading commentator on South African education, who used the term ‘epistemological access’ by which he meant teaching students to become participants in disciplinary communities of enquiry. The use of the term ‘epistemological’ is intended to denote not only what is learned but also how to learn or practice it.
Knowledge is powerful and the sociologist of education Basil Bernstein showed how knowledge is society is unequally distributed according to social hierarchies, allowing an exploration of university curricula and pedagogy to answer such questions as: Do graduates who have studied the same disciplines in different status universities acquire comparable knowledge-derived confidence to speak and expect to be heard in the public sphere? Are students who attend lower-ranking universities having their academic, personal, or professional aspirations curtailed by acquiring less credible knowledge? and Are working-class students systematically epistemically wronged when they attend higher-status universities? (McLean et al, 2013, 2015, 2017). During the seminar, there will be an opportunity to explore the use of Bernstein’s theories and concepts to examine the curriculum and teaching the participants are involved in (Jenkins et al., 2016).
Please email Andy (Andrew.Fisher@nottingham.ac.uk) if you would like to attend.