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Student equity's starring role in Australian higher education : not yet centre field
journal contributionposted on 2011-02-01, 00:00 authored by Trevor Gale
The field of Australian higher education has changed, is changing and is about to change, repositioned in relation to other ‘‘fields of power’’. It is a sector now well defined by its institutional groupings and by their relative claims to selectivity and exclusivity, with every suggestion of their differentiation growing. The potential of a ‘‘joined-up’’ tertiary education system, of vocational education and training (VET) and universities, has the potential to further rework these relations within Australian higher education, as will lifting the volume caps on university student enrolments. Moreover, Australian universities now compete within an international higher education marketplace, ranked by THES and Shanghai Jiao Tiong league tables. ‘‘Catchment areas’’ and knowledge production have become global. In sum, Australian universities (and agents within them) are positioned differently in the field. And being so variously and variably placed, institutions and agents have different stances available to them, including the positions they can take on student equity. In this paper I begin from the premise that our current stance on equity has been out-positioned, as much by a changing higher education field as by entrenched representations of social groups across regions, institutions, disciplines and degrees. In taking a new stance on equity, the paper is also concerned with the positioning in the field of a new national research centre with a focus on student equity in higher education. In particular, the paper asks what stance this new centre can take on student equity that will resonate on a national and even international scale. And, given a global field of higher education, what definitions of equity and propositions for policy and practice can it offer? What will work in the pursuit of equity?