Graduate Citizens? Issues of Citizenship and Higher Education

Graduate Citizens? Issues of Citizenship and Higher Education

Graduate Citizens? Issues of Citizenship and Higher Education

Graduate Citizens? Issues of Citizenship and Higher Education


Following the introduction of student loans and tuition fees, the situation of students and new graduates has changed considerably. Set in this context, Graduate Citizens is a thought-provoking, and insightful look at the current generation of students' attitudes towards citizenship and matters of social and moral responsibility. Drawing on small-scale case studies of students in two universities, the authors explore students' changing sense of citizenship against the backdrop of recent changes in higher education. It addresses students' approaches to being in debt, the role of their families in providing support and their attitudes towards careers. Questioning the claim that the current generation of students is politically apathetic, this book shows that they are in fact socially concerned with, though distant from, official, mainstream politics. It investigates students' responses to such political and economic phenomena as globalisation and the ever-increasing promotion of market forces. Graduate Citizens illuminates and explores the links between reforms in higher education, student experience of university and issues of citizenship. It poses questions about the condition and future of citizenship in Britain and discusses the implications for citizenship education.


Now seems a good time for those with an interest in citizenship to look at current developments within higher education. While in the past the role of universities in relation to 'nation building' was widely acknowledged, because of the small numbers of students involved, this was more concerned with the production of indigenous elites than with the education of an active, diverse citizenry. However, as universities lost the financial basis of their autonomy, with larger amounts of public money supporting a wider variety of higher education institutions, governments in many countries tried to identify the broader social functions of higher education. In Britain, the Robbins Report was a turning point in this regard when it declared that 'the transmission of a common culture and standards of citizenship' was one of the fundamental aims of higher education (Committee on Higher Education 1963:7). The report also proposed that what had been a loose set of institutions with different histories should be conceptualised henceforth as a national system of higher education:

Higher education is so obviously and rightly of great public concern, and so large a proportion of its finance is provided in one way or another from the public purse, that it is difficult to defend the continued absence of co-ordinating principles and of a general conception of objectives; … the needs of the present and still more of the future demand that there be a system.

(ibid.: 5)

If the Robbins Report represented a high point in modern national higher education, more recently, the situation has

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