Petya Ilieva-Trichkova, member of the JustEdu project’s team, took part in the XX ISA World Congress of Sociology ‘’Resurgent Authoritarianism: The Sociology of New Entanglements of Religions, Politics, and Economies”, which took place between 25th June -1st July in Melbourne, Australia. The Congress was a unique space of scientific discussion in which more than 4500 participants took part (3024 of them were in-person).

Petya Ilieva-Trichkova presented a joint paper with Pepka Boyadjieva which was titled A Multidimensional and Comparative Social Justice Perspective Towards Inequalities in Access to Higher Education as a part of the session Rethinking Questions and Issues of Social Justice in Education chaired by Hernan CUERVO, University of Melbourne, Australia and Karina MALDONADO-MARISCAL, TU Dortmund University, Dortmund, Germany.



This paper draws attention to the crucial importance of the social justice perspective for understanding access to and participation in higher education. It conceptualises social justice in higher education and the role of higher education for increasing justice in a given society as complex phenomena which are context and time-specific.

Theoretically, the paper synthesises insights from John Rawls’ theory of ‘justice as fairness’, Amartya Sen’s capability approach, and Nancy Fraser’s three-dimensional scale of justice in order to underpin the conceptualisation of social justice in higher education. We argue that social justice regarding participation in higher education has a multi-dimensional character, and we define the most prominent of these dimensions to be: ‘inclusion’, ‘fairness’, ‘social justice for whom’, ‘social justice where’, and ‘social justice to what’.

Empirically, the paper provides evidence for the dynamics of three of the dimensions of social justice – ‘inclusion’ and ‘fairness’ and ‘social justice in relation to what’ – based on data from the European Social Survey (rounds 5, 6, 8 and 9) and EUROSTUDENT Survey (rounds VI and VII). It applies different measures in order to assess social equity in higher education, including an index of inclusion in higher education and an index of fairness in higher education.

The results show that in the majority of the studied countries there is a trend of inclusion over time with regard to people with either tertiary or non-tertiary education backgrounds. Our findings also demonstrate that it is more difficult to achieve the fairness aspect of social justice in higher education in comparison to its inclusion aspect. In relation to the ‘social justice to what’ aspect, the study reveals a stable trend, according to which involvement in different higher education degrees is more favourable for people with tertiary education backgrounds.