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Colloquium on Transitions, 24 - 25 October 2003

Our world is characterised by global possibilities, yet fragmented realities. In such a context, transition is not experienced as movement from one stable state to another but rather as complex and continuing negotiation between contesting sites of practice, culture, language and identity. While the technical possibilities for communication are rapidly changing and developing, how are we to cross professional, educational, disciplinary and institutional boundaries? What is the nature of these boundaries both within our institutions and in relation to the wider community? How do researchers, students and teachers face the task of moving across these boundaries, making developmental transitions from the familiar to the unfamiliar and engaging in the process of mutual learning?

Higher education is a context for transition between and across many of these different boundaries. Within the field of study of ‘higher education’, the concept of ‘transition’ applies in a range of investigations. Transitions in culture, for example, apply across national/linguistic boundaries, phases and stages of formal education and boundaries between university and workplace, formal and informal learning. They involve questions of identity and life change. As such, the concept of ‘transitions’, and how it may be explored in different areas, is a challenging way of approaching the question of lifelong learning itself and has led to the planning of a Colloquium on Transitions.


The particular context of this proposal is the establishment at University College London of a new Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies of Higher Education (CISHE). The colloquium on Transitions will be the launch event of the Centre.

CISHE aims to stimulate the study of higher education as a field of investigation. This includes the practices, policies and forms of knowledge that characterise academic work. The Centre has been conceived as an arena or space in which research and scholarship in a range of disciplines might be brought together for the examination of issues and questions which would lead to genuinely interdisciplinary, collaborative work. In this sense, it links directly to other initiatives and programmes, for example, the concerns of the ESRC Teaching and Learning Research Programme, the AHRB interest in interdisciplinarity and the EU (FP6/ERA-NET) development and support of new kinds of research space.

The establishment of the Centre reflects a growing preoccupation of the academic community to examine the ways in which it understands the world and thereby contributes to the process of change. Its purpose is to stimulate such examination and to provide a basis in knowledge and experience which will contribute to the higher education sector's ability to play a formative role in determining how it should respond to social change. The Centre will thus provide a focus for teaching, research and debate that draws on a wide range of disciplinary approaches in the field of Higher Education. It aims to extend the range of disciplines applied to the study of higher education and to create closer relationships between the educational, disciplinary, economic, social and material aspects of academic work. To this end, it will offer a programme of research, graduate courses and seminars. Its members will be from a range of departments at UCL and academics from other institutions will be invited to play a part in the Centre (a website to organise these arrangements is being developed at the time of writing).

The establishment of this Centre is timely for there is a growing emphasis on the need for interdisciplinary research proposals. What is understood by ‘interdisciplinary’, however, needs further clarification in order that different research cultures, epistemologies and practices can critically engage with one another. Disciplinary boundaries can provide a block to communication due to the different assumptions, practices, languages and cultures of the different disciplines. Alternatively, projects which separate out the different disciplinary contributions into separate teams and tasks can fail to optimise the potential for critical debate between the disciplines represented.

> About the Colloquium

Further information:

Toni Griffiths and Stephen Rowland
Department of Education and Professional Development
University College London
1-19 Torrington Place
London WC1E 6BT

telephone +44 (0) 20 7679 5939 (TG) and +44 (0) 20 7679 1936 (SR)
email toni.griffiths@ucl.ac.uk, s.rowland@ucl.ac.uk


Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies of Higher Education - cishe@ucl.ac.uk - UCL - Gower Street - London - WC1E 6BT - Telephone: +44 (0)20 7679 2000 - Copyright © 1999-2006 UCL

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