IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Young people within European higher education systems: contested constructions

12 February 2020, 12:30 pm–2:00 pm

University students socialising

Have young people become consumers within today's higher education systems in Europe, and how might this have changed the way they study and interact with teachers and peers?

Event Information

Open to





Centre for Higher Education Studies


Clarke Hall
UCL Institute of Education
20 Bedford Way

It is often argued that young people entering universities and colleges are positioned as consumers due to the recent changes to higher education within Europe and the widespread increase in tuition fees and a decrease in the level of public investment. This has implications for both way in which they approach their studies and the expectations they have of their teachers and peers.

Students, some suggest, have become instrumental in their learning and narcissistic in their interactions with others. This discourse is particularly strong in England (associated with the very high level of fees payable since 2012) - but has also been articulated with reference to other European nations.

This seminar explores a paper which subjects some of these claims to critical scrutiny, by drawing on data from a large Europe-wide study funded by the European Research Council.

The research demonstrates that:

  • students understand their own position in complex and nuanced ways,
  • constructions of the student are often contested by other social actors (such as higher education staff, policymakers and the media) and,
  • understandings are different across Europe - raising significant questions about the ostensible homogenisation of European higher education around an Anglo-American model.


About the Speaker

Professor Rachel Brooks

Executive editor of the British Journal of Sociology of Education and Professor of Higher Education at UCL Institute of Education

Rachel's recent publications include Education and Society (2019), Materialities and Mobilities in Education (2018, with Johanna Waters), and Student Politics and Protest: International Perspectives (2017).

More about Professor Rachel Brooks