Call for Abstracts

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The unifying 29th Annual CHER conference theme is ‘The University as a Critical Institution?’. The two keynote speakers will deliver presentations related to the theme, which has a number of dimensions. The conference will also be organised around four discussion tracks. Criticality arises in each track, though Track 4 is a miscellaneous track that will enable a broad range of research and discussion in the field of higher education studies to be included. We encourage researchers from various disciplines and with different scholarly perspectives to submit paper and panel proposals that fit within these discussion tracks. In addition to established researchers we would also like to encourage both junior scholars and doctoral researchers to participate in the Conference and submit a proposal, for the main conference programme and/or the seminar for Doctoral and Early Career Researchers to be held the afternoon before the main conference.

Following the conference, a selection of the conference papers will be edited into a collection published by Sense Publishers, as in previous years.


Governance: Critical regulation and regulated criticism

This track is devoted to the ongoing changes in the governance of higher education, i.e. the interplay between the external governance, regulation and funding of universities and their internal organisation, decision-making and leadership; consequences for the role and functioning of higher education; and organisational implications of the university as a site of critical work. It includes papers a) papers addressing changing beliefs and practices in governance as a supposedly critical tool in running the sector, and b) papers addressing the consequences of governance for academic freedom, open scholarly communication and the university as an arena for critical exchange on society.

Teaching and learning: Beyond employability

Teaching/learning research has typically focused on themes like assessment, curriculum, pedagogy, student learning and outcomes, working with diverse student groups, student academic experiences, different classroom settings, doctoral supervision, disciplinary variation, different modes of learning and new technologies. Yet teaching and learning are increasingly seen as instrumental activities focused on graduate employability. Papers in this strand will apply a critical reflective lens to topics related to teaching and learning and be open to broad, intellectually critical understandings and studies of the purposes and content of teaching and learning from both student and teacher perspectives.

Growth, equality, movement, instability and limits in higher education systems

In more than 50 countries the tertiary participation rate exceeds half of the nominal school leaver age group. Yet in many countries institutional hierarchies are steep and social equality of opportunity remains elusive. Papers in this strand will critically address issues such as widening participation and continuing gaps; stratification and differentiation; higher education and economic and social inequality; higher education as public good and/or private good; systemic funding, costs and accountability; private and for-profit forms; public-private partnerships, mergers and alliances;global, regional and national systems and their interfaces; mobility policy and practice, international migration of students and staff; transnational and cross-border forms.

Other research topics related to the conference theme

Those whose proposals do not fit the themes above but relate to other core themes in higher education research are invited to submit to this track. However, proposals should be connected as closely as practicable to the theme of the conference, ‘The University as a Critical Institution?’


At least two referees will review each proposal. Criteria for paper and poster will include:

Does the paper contain a new contribution to knowledge sufficiently significant to justify presentation at the CHER conference?

Relationship to literature
Does the paper demonstrate an adequate understanding of the relevant literature in the field and cite an appropriate range of literature sources?

Is the paper’s argument built on an appropriate base of theory, concepts, or other ideas? Has the research or equivalent intellectual work on which the paper is based been well designed? Are the methods employed appropriate?

Outcomes of the study
Are outcomes of the research, critical review or theorisation presented clearly and analysed appropriately? Do the conclusions adequately tie together the other elements of the paper?

Implications for research, practice and/or society
Does the paper identify clearly relevant implications for research, practice and/or society? For example, if the paper contains research findings with practical implications, does the paper consider how these may be used in teaching, to influence public policy, and/or in research? Does it consider the potential impact upon society, where relevant (for example influencing public attitudes, affecting quality of life)? Are the statements about implications and impact of the work consistent with the findings and conclusions of the paper?

Quality of communication
Is the paper clearly expressed, according to the norms of the field and the expected knowledge of the conference’s audience? Has attention been paid to the clarity of expression and readability, such as sentence structure, jargon use, acronyms, etc.

Additional criteria for panel proposals:
– Importance of the proposal for the Higher Education field;
– Coherence of the panel topic and integration of the papers;
– Linkages with the themes of the Conference.


In relation to paper sessions and panels, after selection the Conference Organisers with include a discussant in each session. The objective is to aid and stimulate reflection and discussion among all those present at the session.

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