The project’s objectives will be achieved through several research streams and by adopting a mixed-method design. We will rethink the social justice in participation in higher and adult education by:
a) using a critical theoretical analysis and a synthesis of three main approaches (the capability approach, the recognition theory and the political economy of education) and
b) relying on quantitate data from large international surveys and qualitative data from biographical interviews with students from eight African countries who studied in six European countries.
A. Main research streams
Social justice in participation in higher and adult education as a complex phenomenon: Redistribution, recognition and representation
We acknowledge that redistribution, recognition and representation are mutually irreducible dimensions of social justice. That is why a comprehensive and critical theoretical understanding of social justice in participation in higher and adult education requires taking into account the role of higher and adult education in creating (in)equalities in income and wealth, in recognition and empowerment, and in representation. We will address the challenge to: a) conceptualize how (in)equalities in income based on educational attainment (higher education degree or adult education certificate) reinforce (in)equalities in recognition and in representation; b) theorize and reveal if and how (in)equalities in recognition can influence (in)equalities in income; c) study the effects of educational inequalities on some important public goods (e.g. social trust, social cohesion, citizens’ pubic engagement);
Understanding of higher and adult education as specific spheres of and pathways to recognition
Honneth’s theory of justice includes three types of relationships – familial/personal, legal/public decision-making and societal relations of work/market economy. We argue that in contemporary societies we cannot discuss the issues of justice and social inequalities without taking into account relationships which emerge in higher and adult education as social spheres and regarding access to these types of education and individual and social benefits from them. Our theoretical understanding of higher and adult education as spheres of recognition and pathways for overcoming recognition gaps will be underpinned by analysis of the experience of Africans who had studied at universities in both Eastern and Western Europe during the 1960s-1990s. The study of African students will focus on both institutional and interpersonal recognition, i.e. on how different aspects of (mis)recognition are realized by the institutions of higher education (through their policies, procedure and values) and also between individuals.
Multi-layered factors influencing (in)equalities in participation in higher and adult education
Ensuring access to different forms of education through the one’s life span is a prerequisite for people’s successful involvement in rapidly changing labour market and their participation in public life as active and responsible citizens. That is why the issues of barriers for participation in higher and adult education and of preventing unjustly prioritization of some people/groups and exclusion of some others gain crucial significance. Based on capability approach, the recognition theory and the political economy of education we will deepen the understanding of participation in higher and adult education as a matter of justice and will build a conceptual framework/model of factors at micro, meso and macro level which influence (in)equalities in participation in higher and adult education. The results of this research stream will also include: a) creating the first systematic (comparative and covering different years) database for measuring social inequalities in participation in higher and adult education and the factors at micro and macro level that influence them; b) revealing the factors at macro level, which could explain differences between countries with regard to social justice in participation in higher and adult education; c) producing ranking the countries in terms of the inequalities in participation in higher and adult education for different years.
Multi-dimensional character of social justice in participation in higher and adult education
The project will focus on the following prominent dimensions of the social justice in adult education:
a) Inclusion and fairness. We argue that both aspects – inclusion and fairness – are important, as they capture different dimensions of social justice in participation in higher and adult education. When inclusion is pursued as a goal, each advance in the participation of persons from under-represented groups represents a move forward, while achieving better fairness is more difficult and less visible; it requires structural improvement of representation in higher education from different social groups, i.e. changes in the composition of the student body so that it better represents the diversity of the general population.
b) Social justice to whom? We will pay special attention to social justice in participation in higher and adult education in relation to gender, age and place of residence and try to reveal how it relates to social justice in participation in higher and adult education in relation to socio-economic background.
c) Social justice where? Both higher and adult education are processes, sometimes long ones. Successful access to them does not always mean their successful completion. This is why we differentiate between social justice at the access of higher and adult education and social justice at the graduation from them. We will study which factors influence social justice at these two points of higher and adult education and whether there is sustainability in it.
d) Qualitative dimension: participation in what? A special attention will be paid to the qualitative side of educational inequalities, i.e. to the chances of students belonging to different social groups (differentiated on the basis of their social background, place of residence, age, sex) to participate in different higher education institutions, fields of study, types of degree, educational programmes for adult learners. The qualitative dimension of social justice is especially evident with regard to participation in higher education due to the stratified nature of contemporary higher education systems.
B. Methods of analysis
a) We envisage a secondary data analysis of data from several large international comparative studies, which will allow us to adopt a wide comparative perspective, such as the Adult Education Survey (AES), the European Union Labour Force Survey (EU LFS), the European Social Survey (ESS), the EUROSTUDENT survey, the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) and the Continuing Vocational Training Survey (CVTS). The data analysis will use descriptive statistics, cross-tabulations and correlation analyses and more sophisticated statistical methods such as cluster analysis, multilevel modeling and structural equation modeling.
b) Case study on African students
The study will focus on university graduates from English and French-speaking African countries who had studied at universities in France, Great Britain, West Germany, East Germany, the Soviet Union (USSR) and Bulgaria. The choice of concrete African countries is made based on two criteria: a) the countries which have sent the greatest number of students abroad; b) the equal share of English-speaking and French-speaking African countries. In combining these two criteria, the following countries may be included in our analysis: Morocco, Mali, Congo-Brazzaville (former French colony), Senegal, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nigeria, Kenya, i.e. four Anglophone and four Francophone countries. We plan to carry out about 60-80 biographical interviews. The data will be analysed using a thematic content analysis. In some countries we will also apply the Boltanski and Thévenot’ ”jury” method – “jury” from ordinary people (not from the interviewed), who get familiar with the collected empirical material and give their own definitions and categorizations. In addition, we will use vignettes in order to identify common experiences based on previously identified themes and to develop several “composite vignettes”.