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The Spatial Politics of Higher Education Expansion

Conference paper
Authors Annika Bergviken Rensfeldt
Published in Paper for the Symposium on Governmentality in Educational and Social Sciences, April 13-16, 2011, Wisconsin-Madison, USA
Publication year 2011
Published at The Linnaeus Centre for Research on Learning, Interaction, and Mediated Communication in Contemporary Society (LinCS)
Department of Education, Communication and Learning
Language en
Keywords expansion; educational participation; governmentality; spatial politics
Subject categories Pedagogy


This paper examines the contemporary strivings of securing higher education expansion and increasing educational participation by examining its spatial politics, based on a governmentality approach (Foucault, 1991). The paper examines how spaces of security (Foucault, 2007), take part in the government of and through populations. Based on Swedish education policies of the late 1990s and early 2000s concerning higher and distance education, the questions raised are, What kinds of spatially regulating powers are involved to accomplish higher education expansion? What spaces are deployed, and what signifies them and the governing of higher education expansion? Three distinct spatialities relying on different rationalities (liberal, neo-liberal, technological, economical and social) – here entitled Non-places, Markets, and Transits – are created and elaborated on. It is concluded that these expansion rationalities are a re-activated postwar welfare politics, which nurture higher education participation and activate different participatory, ‘open’ spaces to secure expansion. What seem to be new, is the shifts of scale in terms of self-organization and self-association which produce a heterogeneous expansion and make the Swedish policy case an example of both a regional, European and global spatial politics.

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