Key Notes

Michael Hartmann

Micheal Hartmann is Professor for Sociology with a focus on sociology of elites at the  Technical University Darmstadt (Germany)

Emily Dawson

Emiliy Dawson is Lecturer in Science Engagement & Communication at the
Department of Education and Professional Studies (DEPS) / King’s College London and Lecturer in Science Communication in the Science & Technology Studies Department, University College London (Great Britain)          

Eva Egron-Polak

Eva Egron-Polak is an expert in European Union higher education policy and the current  Secretary General of the International Association of Universities (France)

General Secretary of the International Association of Universities/France


The persistence of educational inequality and its consequences - and what would be needed to overcome the mechanisms of its reproduction

Academic research and higher education are key drivers for the social, economic and cultural development of modern societies. Educational attainment notably on post-secondary level has a significant meaning for access to employment opportunities and - even more important - it enables individuals to autonomously participate in civil, political or cultural processes and to shape their life paths. Regardless of a rise in access to higher education and a growing numbers of tertiary degrees in industrialised countries, not all societal groups have benefited from this general raise of the educational level in the same way. Access to higher education and success rates are still largely socially biased and even job entry chances after graduation are determined by social origin – particularly including careers in science and research.

But what are the inherent mechanisms which seem to retain educational inequalities in a solid lasting manner? Why are children from underpriviledged family backgrounds still less likely to participate in the general raise of the educational level and to grasp educational opportunities - despite manifold attempts of regulatory interventions and innovative means of educational counselling? What potential lies in informal out-of-school programs for children and young people – can they be an alternative approach to counteract unfavorable living environments and socio-economic disadvantages? What are the conditions which would enable Children’s Universities to achieve their full effect of social innovation and help to impede the entrenched mechanisms of social reproduction in a sustained manner? Another relevant issue is the role of universities – both as manifest institutions which they are, and as a mirror image of the academic key actors: Are higher education establishments able to initiate a change in thinking about social inclusion from the inside out – and what is the contribution which Children’s Universities and other informal education programs based in academic environments can have?

These questions and related issues will be addressed within this talk.

Towards understanding access and equity in informal science education

Opportunities to engage with, learn about, question, criticise and debate science have become increasingly important in our societies. Science and technology are embedded in peoples’ lives in ways that are socially, culturally and politically significant. Scientific issues range from everyday decisions about personal health to political decisions about science funding or scandalous revelations about scientific practices in the mass media. Given the degree to which science affects our lives, accessible and equitable science education is clearly important to equip people with the tools to negotiate contemporary life or enter scientific professions. While for many people school and the mass media remain the most significant contexts in which they encounter science, informal science learning environments, such as science centres, museums, zoos, aquaria, clubs or science festivals are an increasingly popular place to engage with science. Such places have been found to provide significant benefits to their participants, visitors, audiences and members.

Despite their apparent popularity however, research suggests such places are only partially public. Being unable to access informal science learning environments and the benefits they might provide can be considered a form of marginalisation and social exclusion, especially in societies where engagement with science can be considered key for cultural, educational and political participation. It is therefore important to understand the issues involved that might produce inaccessibility and exclusion from informal science learning as well as to try to imagine what might be involved in developing informal science learning practices that are ‘for all’ rather than only ‘for some’. In this talk I will outline my research on these issues and attempt to provide some insights about potential areas for imagining what inclusive informal science learning might look like.

Diversity and local relevance as major challenges for higher education in the 21st century

In higher education, change is a permanent state of affairs, though the forces and challenges influencing this change, as well as strategies developed to respond, vary over time and in different contexts.  The presentation will highlight the unique challenges that HEIs face today, touching on these from different regional perspectives, considering as well how they impact on different stakeholders in HEIs.   The impact on current higher education development of some key trends such as globalization and internationalization, diversity in demand and various demographic changes, technological innovations, public funding tendencies, society’s multiple and diverse expectations of higher education will be briefly examined.

Since the work of the International Association of Universities is in large measure dictated by these and other challenges facing universities, the presentation will also focus on some of the projects that IAU has undertaken in an effort to influence policy and to help institutions learn from one another how best to respond will locally relevant approaches.   Thus IAU’s emphasis on fair or inclusive internationalization, equitable access for success by all learners, commitment to sustainable development and to the social responsibility of higher education to instill in learners an understanding and appreciation of ethics and ethical conduct, will all be used as examples of the Association’s vision of higher education and its role.

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