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The concept of ‘power’ is pivotal to understanding the practices and policies that shape and define higher education, from the level of international and national higher education politics and governance to the pedagogical space of the classroom. In everyday speech, power is most often associated with the capacity for leading, deciding, and having authority over others. In this sense, it is connected to a cluster of concepts like coercion, domination, control, or manipulation and understood as something that certain actors have more of than others do. In higher education research, however, power remains a contested, multidimensional, and dynamic concept, and the understanding of power as a question of having authority over other people is only one of many understandings.
Arguably, some kind of power always imbues social life, as people, intentionally or not, shape their own and others’ lives. An analytical focus on power, therefore, often goes hand in hand with a more normative assessment of whether or not a certain kind of power is legitimate, exploitative, or emancipatory. The understanding or definition of power is of paramount importance to the ways in which research on higher education itself may work to reinforce or challenge existing power structures.
This entry introduces central approaches to the question of ‘power’ and provides selected examples of the relevance of power analyses within the field of higher education. First, it discusses the classic distinctions between ‘power over’ and ‘power to’, and power as restrictive or productive. It then touches upon understandings of power as something ‘all-pervasive’ and ‘dispersed’ rather than as possessed by a specific authority. The last sections present three areas of higher education research within which different forms of power analyses play a central role: (1) ‘geometries of power’ in globalised higher education; (2) ‘social reproduction, inequality, and empowerment’; and (3) questions of ‘governance, democracy, and hard/soft power’.
TitelThe SAGE Encyclopedia of Higher Education : vol. 3
RedaktørerMiriam David , Marilyn Amey
Antal sider6
ForlagSAGE Publications
ISBN (trykt)9781473942912
StatusUdgivet - 2020


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