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At the Margins of the University

                            At the Margins of the University:

Scholarship and practice of higher education transformation and disruption in contexts of post/ conflict, inequality and oppression

                                     20 September Lanyon Building North 0G/074

                                     10:00 – 12:00 (refreshments at 9:30)

                                     To register click here

 At this event as part of SSESW’s research focus on Peace in Societies, reflections on three intentional interventions (a roundtable; a cross-institutional academic development programme; a network) will be presented by those concerned with social justice in and of the academy. You are welcome to attend to learn about critical Higher Education Studies and the work being undertaken to address both contextual concerns in different international spaces; and to contribute your own insights and concerns. We hope to engage in an informal, conversational manner as befitting the inclusive orientation to which we are committed.

1.       Building solidarity through comparative experiences of post/conflict academia: Reflections on two days of dialogue – Tom Parkinson (University of Kent)

The scale of destruction and displacement caused by the Syrian crisis has been unprecedented in recent decades, as have the challenges faced by Syrian academics working within conflict areas or displaced, exiled or positioned in refugee contexts. At a two-day event held in Istanbul on the 21st and 22nd June 2019, Syrian academics gathered together with counterparts from various international academic communities that continue to grapple with the challenges of sustaining their academic work and authority under conditions of crisis, exile, political oppression and post-conflict legacies.

The impetus and rationale for this dialogue emerged from meta-analysis of data conducted between 2017 and 2019 as part of the Council for At Risk Academics (Cara) Syria Programme. Ongoing data collection activities have sought to elicit the contextually-contingent academic development needs of Syrian academics living in exile. While participants have called for support in aspects of teaching and learning, research design and literacy development, more affective and substratal complexities to being an academic in exile also emerged, and deserved dedicated space and attention.

Delegates engaged in round table discussions and working groups, and continued these dialogues informally over shared meals and social activities. In this presentation I reflect on the insights and support which were shared at the event, and the consciousness that was raised about the agency, limitations, complicity and intergenerational legacies that may be borne by academics and the academy in contexts of conflict, crisis and post-conflict development.

2.       A capacity development model for women in higher education institutions in East Africa – Naomi Lumutenga (HERS-SA; Makerere University)

Higher Education Resource Services, Eastern Africa (HERS-EA) is an educational non-profit organization advancing women leadership and management in East Africa (Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and Ethiopia) through a women-centred curriculum addressing personal and institutional Barriers and Networks. The Specific Objectives of HERS-EA are to: 1. develop women leaders in HEIs in Eastern Africa, and 2. empower women at multi-tiers of leadership and integrate the results to change systems. It has connected women in higher education institutions with those at the grassroots, through conducting engaged research and interventions, and publishing impactful findings on issues such as menstruation and nutrition, to inform policy. Two successful Academies bringing together over 100 women from HEIs, NGOs and Businesses in East Africa and USA have been conducted; planning for the Third Academy is underway. The presentation will highlight achievements, discuss challenges and outline opportunities available for new collaborations and engagement.

3.       Reflecting on ‘Emancipatory Imaginations: Advancing Critical University Studies’ Event – Jenny Boźena du Preez (Nelson Mandela University), Dina Belluigi (QUB), and Tony Gallagher (QUB)

Between the 15th and 20th of August 2019, over 40 invited scholars and practitioners with an interest in the critical study of higher education from Ghana, India, Kenya, Ireland, South Africa, Uganda, the UK, Europe, Canada and other countries, gathered for the GCRF-funded Emancipatory Imaginations: Advancing Critical University Studies Winter School at Nelson Mandela University in South Africa. As part of the collaboration between Dr Dina Zoe Belluigi (SSESW, Queen’s University Belfast) and Prof André Keet (Chair for Critical Studies in Higher Education Transformation, Nelson Mandela University), the aim was to challenge and ‘denaturalize the dominant higher education imaginary’ (Stein 2018, p.1) and consider the prospect of ‘other’ ways to study universities that are meaningfully different from the various strands of conventional higher education studies. In doing so, the School also intended to explore a flexible configuration of a Critical University Studies programme that is capable of thinking plural forms of emancipatory higher education imaginations and futures.

Critical University Studies is a recent term, coined in 2012 by Jeffrey Williams to refer to a field of study that began to emerge in the 1990s in response to neoliberal changes in the University. However, an alternative tradition of critical work on the University and Higher Education exists, going back much further to feminist, anti-racist, decolonial and other modes of critique.

The Emancipatory Imaginations Winter School, in bringing together scholars from multiple locations to Africa, has explicitly situated itself at the nexus of the various intellectual, intergenerational and geopolitical tensions in this emerging field, in the hopes of responding to the already extant traditions of Critical University Studies, unpacking its tensions and co-creating new ethico-political possibilities for social justice and solidarity in this field. This seminar will bring together three of the attendees of the Winter School – Dr Jenny Boźena du Preez (Nelson Mandela University), Prof Tony Gallagher (QUB and Dr Dina Belluigi (QUB) – to reflect on the processes and outcomes of the School, including emerging themes, contestations and possibilities for collaboration.


Tom Parkinson is Senior Lecturer at the Centre for the Study of Higher Education (CSHE) at the University of Kent. Tom’s current research centres on disparities in access and opportunity within global higher education, focusing in particular on how conflict can isolate academic communities and erode intellectual capital. He is the academic development lead for the Council for At Risk Academics (Cara) Syria Programme, which works with Syrian academics living in exile in neighbouring countries to sustain their academic work and build connections with the international academic community. This work is documented in a recent article in Higher Education (Twitter: @Timothy80)

Naomi Watasa Lumutenga conceptualised, established and operationalised the NGO ‘Higher Education Resource Services, East Africa’ (HERS-EA), and has coordinated its activities since 2014. She is an experienced mobiliser, activist and public speaker, who has delivered numerous keynote addresses, including a 2018 address for the International Conference for Women in Science, Business, Leadership and Innovation for Development at Mekelle University, Ethiopia. She is a Trustee of UK-registered African Village Support (, which provides economic empowerment opportunities for communities, with a focus on women and girls in Eastern Uganda. As advisor to the Archbishop’s Nominee at the UN Secretariat and as member of the General Synod of the Church of England, Naomi has experience of high-level negotiation and advocacy for policy change, which includes successful campaigning for participation of women in priesthood and episcopate, now enshrined in law. See more about HERS-EA here ( and follow activities in social media (Twitter @HERSEastAfrica).

Jenny Boźena du Preez is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Chair for Critical Studies in Higher Education Transformation (CriSHET) at Nelson Mandela University, South Africa. She is currently working on the critical and transformative potential of literature and Literary Studies and what it might have to offer Critical University Studies. Jenny was instrumental in organising the Emancipatory Imaginations: Advancing Critical University Studies Winter School, and leading the CRISHET team through the event. She holds a PhD in Literary Studies in English focusing on representations of gender and sexuality within literature by African women. She has published an article entitled “Liminality and Alternative Femininity in Sol T. Plaatje’s Mhudi” in English in Africa and an interview with South African writer, Makhosazana Xaba, in Tydskrif vir Letterkunde. She has taught a range of courses in Literary Studies in English and Media, Communications and Culture at Nelson Mandela University.

Tony Gallagher is currently Professor of Education at Queen’s University Belfast. He has held various leadership posts in Queen’s including Head of the School of Education, Pro Vice Chancellor and Acting Faculty Dean of Research for Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. His primary research interest lies in the role of education in divided societies, especially as this relates to work on social cohesion and equality. In addition, he works with the Council of Europe and an international consortium on the civic and democratic role of higher education. (Twitter: @tgeducation)

Dina Zoe Belluigi is an academic in Higher Education Studies at the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work at Queen’s University Belfast (Northern Ireland), prior to which, she was a Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Research, Teaching and Learning (CHERTL) at Rhodes University in South Africa. Her scholarship and practitioner work has circulated around how those with responsibility for representation, at first artists and then academics, bear witness to the problematics and im-possibility of such representation and such responsibility, and moreover how such agents are constructed, enabled and/or ‘schooled’ as agents of social change and critical consciousness. Dina organised this seminar, and is honoured to bring these speakers to Belfast. (Twitter: @DZBelluigi)

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