Handbook on the Politics of Higher Education
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Handbook on the Politics of Higher Education

Edited by Brendan Cantwell, Hamish Coates and Roger King

Understanding the politics of Higher Education is becoming more important as the sector is increasingly recognised as a vital source of innovation, skills, economic prosperity, and personal wellbeing. Yet key political differences remain over such issues as who should pay for higher education, how should it be accountable, and how we measure its quality and productivity. Particularly, are states or markets the key in helping to address such matters. The Handbook provides framing perspectives and perspectives, chapters on funding, governance and regulation, and pieces on the political economy of higher education and on the increased role of external stakeholders and indicators.
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Chapter 26: Student politics: between representation and activism

Manja Klemenčič and Bo Yun Park

Abstract

This chapter reviews and offers directions for future research on student politics in higher education in different parts of the world. The concept of student politics refers to the activities related to the power relations between students and other social actors inside and outside the higher education systems; more specifically, it pertains to the relationships between students and university authorities, as well as the interactions between students and state officials. In analysing the various forms of student politics, the authors draw a distinction between representation and activism, as two distinct yet interrelated activities. Representation pertains to students organizing into representative student associations, such as student governments, graduate student employee unions, party-affiliated student organizations, or other student interest groups. Activism, on the other hand, denotes practices of student collective action through various forms of political engagement, whereby students act in support of or in opposition to a specific cause and/or hold the authority accountable. The analysis is guided by questions on how the various forms of student politics emerge and how they develop their organizational characteristics and their respective strategic repertoires.

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