What do students do in higher education? Researching higher education as students’ academic self-formation

15th July 2021 : 14:00 - 15:00

Category: Webinar

Speaker: Soyoung Lee, University of Oxford

Location: Zoom webinar, registration required

Audience: Public

What is higher education? What is a university for? Dominant answers for these questions involve the formation of students. However, they often ironically exclude students from the process of student development. In human capital approaches, for instance, students develop according to the flow of social reproduction through higher education. This deprives students of their ability to reflexively navigate their own ways and augment themselves as they want. However, isn’t it the students themselves who do the learning and who decide what to do with what they learn in higher education? No matter how grandiose goals others (e.g., teachers, institutions, and societies) have for them?

The self-forming, not other-formed, students deliberately choose to attend higher education and learn specialised knowledge as a part of their personal projects. Based on Archer’s conceptualisation of reflexive agency, higher education as academic self-formation puts students’ reflexive agency at the centre and their desired self at the end of higher education. With its normative nature, self-formation can draw many ‘yes’ from the field. However, to empower this empowering concept, academic self-formation should be further elaborated by both conceptual and empirical investigations. My doctoral research is one of the attempts.

In this seminar, I will conceptually articulate what academic self-formation is by working with psychological theories. Then, how students creatively transform themselves through knowledge engagement and international mobility will be explained by using empirical data from local and international South Korean students.

This webinar is part of the free public seminar programme hosted by the Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE).