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 Nordic Party Members: Linkages in Troubled Times, Edited by Marie Demker, Knut Heidar, and Karina Kosiara-Pedersen

The Contentious Politics of Higher Education. Students as Political Actors in Times of Crisis

Contentious Politics
Political Participation
Social Movements
Panel Number
Panel Chair
Cesar Guzman-Concha
Scuola Normale Superiore
Panel Co-Chair
Lorenzo Cini
Scuola Normale Superiore
Panel Discussant
Mario Diani
Università degli Studi di Trento

10/09/2016 09:00 - 10:40
Building: Faculty of Arts Floor: 1 Room: FA131
University students have traditionally engaged in contentious collective action. New generations of political leaders have emerged out of the student movement, often associated to broader hopes of renewal and regeneration. The events of 1968 show students as an actor committed to a program of progressive change that included the fight against bureaucratism, oppression and imperialism. In many countries the active role of students in politics and society dates further back in history. But education has traditionally been a contentious issue. Indeed, one of the core demands of popular movements in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries all over the world was to ensure access to educational programs for children and the youth. But while former student movements fought for universalize access and connect educational institutions to their social environment, recent student protests challenge a distinctive set of policy reforms. Since the advent of neoliberalism in the 1980s, politicians and policy makers in the advanced and the developing world have proposed a major shift in the paradigm that informed education policies during most of the twentieth century. Drawing on the assumption that the private-sector approach is superior to the public-sector approach, the new paradigm promotes the “discipline of the market place, the power of the consumer and the engine of the competition” as defining principles for the provision of education (McGettigan 2013). But besides, or in parallel to these trends, in some countries the disruptive potential of student activism has been more visible in their challenges to what they consider authoritarian modes of political power. Here students act as a democratizing force that pushes for the opening of institutions to groups and classes excluded from decision-making centers. Several recent episodes of massive student protests in Europe, Latin America and Africa, and the key role of students in broader protest movements in North America (Occupy Wall Street) and the Middle East (e.g. Arab Spring), point at the question of whether we assist to a new surge of student movements. Against this backdrop, this panel discusses and analyses the role of student activism in contemporary societies. It focuses on the characteristics, causes, consequences and implications of student political participation in recent times, in a variety of countries that represent diverse historical, geographical and socio-political contexts.

Paper List

Title Details
#FeesMustFall: Causes, Characteristics, and Higher Education Policy Implications of the 2015 South African Student Movement View Paper Details
Explaining the outcomes of the student protests in Chile. Hypotheses on social movements’ assertiveness View Paper Details
Italian Students as a Political Actor? The Policy Impact of the Recent Student Mobilizations in the Field of Higher Education View Paper Details
Millbank tendency: protest events and mediating ‘moments of excess’ in the UK student movement View Paper Details
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