Publication Details

Harwood, V., O'Shea, S., Uptin, J., Humphry, N. & Kervin, L. (2013). Precarious education and the university: navigating the silenced borders of participation. The International Journal on School Disaffection, 10 (2), 23-44.


Access to and participation in university education is a key equity issue, with increased efforts to widen the participation of secondary school-aged students from low socio-economic status (LSES) backgrounds in many countries worldwide. In Australia, programmes aimed at widening university participation generally target LSES children and young people engaged in schooling. Access to such programmes thus demands a connection to schooling, yet not all school-age young people have such connections: they may experience what we term 'precarious' relationships to education. Without school connections, young people with precarious relationships to education have extremely limited opportunities to engage (or to imagine engaging) in higher education. This paper considers this issue from the perspectives of young people who have precarious relationships with school education. Drawing on qualitative research investigating disadvantage and university education, the paper reports on how the imagination of university education, which might be argued to be a 'silenced' border of social inclusion, is described by young people with precarious relationships to education. Drawing on Judith Butler's book Precarious Life (2004), the paper puts forward the argument that the precariousness of education is relational and that universities thus have a moral responsibility to recognize and respond to the educational precariousness of the Other.