Transformation in HE

Imbued with political capital and often cited in rhetoric, ‘transformation’ is a signifier floating in associations that vary greatly, dependent on the speaker, context and a whole range of often obtuse intentions. In some places, discourses of transformation are drawn upon to inform structural and cultural initiatives aimed at change in contexts grappling with structural inequalities, where transformation is often twinned with diversity, inclusivity and social justice. In others, transformation discourses are synonymous with modernisation in terms of digital technology or teaching-and-learning.  I am interested in analysing the constructed nature of such discourses and whose interests they serve and goals they further, particularly in terms the role of higher education in relation to learning, teaching and knowledge creation at the local and global level.

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PROJECT TITLE: Teaching and Learning in Conflict and Refugee Contexts: Supporting Syrian Higher Education through Academic Development

ROLE: Lead researcher Tom Parkinson (Univ of Kent), with partners Dr Shaher Abdullateef (University of Reading), Dr Musallam Abedtalas (Mardin Artuklu University), Dr Dina Belluigi (Queen’s University Belfast), Dr Iman Sarwini (Council for At Risk Academics (previously Aleppo University)  

Academic development is a cornerstone of higher education in the global North. However, practice and research in academic development seldom address the challenges associated with higher education outside of these contexts.  Conflict and refugee contexts in particular present different challenges: physical infrastructure is damaged, resources are scarce, populations are displaced, and staff and students suffer from psychological trauma. Thousands of academics have fled Syria since 2011, resulting in a considerable deficit of knowledge and educational delivery within the country, and many academics in exile are deskilling due to inactivity and isolation. This presents grave consequences for Syrian society. There is therefore an urgent need to support and sustain Syrian higher education, both within the country and in exile. This workshop brings Syrian academics in exile in Turkey together with international counterparts working in other conflict, post-conflict and refugee contexts, alongside those working in contexts where academic development is well established and resourced.  Participants will work together to identify challenges, needs and opportunities associated with teaching and learning in Syria (and by extension other conflict and refugee contexts), map resources, and formulate strategies.

In June 2019, we will meet as a network to interact with Syrian academics displaced in Turkey.

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While I teach about this, to provoke debate and enable heterogeneous research, and conduct related research, I’d welcome your input. Comment in the space below, to collate resources and thoughts on how to negotiate these discourses in meaningful ways.

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