Who do we exclude?

By Katie Thomas – May 20, 2009
OfflineKatie Thomas

At our recent local SCRA meeting we looked at visible and less visible processes by which the poor are excluded from academia and other enviornments. Some of the points that were raised in relation to the Southern Hemisphere and the Australian context included the following:

Exclusion of single parents and students from low socio-economic backgrounds at university – structural inhibitors (book expenses, child care limitations, parking issues and expense)

Academic exclusion – intellectual pro

Dear All,

We would be interested in hearing student voices about the demography of their cohort.  Who do they feel gets excluded from academia and how?  Do you have friends and others who attempted tertiary education but encountered to many structural and other barriers to continue?  How could these barriers be addressed?  How can greater social support be fostered to include those who have fewer resources (emotional, social, financial and other).  What are your own experiences of feeling included and excluded within the academic environment? How are these boundaries perpetuated?  Looking forward to a lively Southern and Northern hemispheric discussion!


Katie Thomas 


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OfflineKatie Scott Katie Scott said 4 years ago

Hi Katie and others,

I am a doctoral student on scholarship and find that there is solittle empathy amongst academic staff for students who are in myposition. The nature of the scholarship limits how much i am ableto work and even with some resources behind me, I am looking athaving to switch to part-time because the scholarship is barelyenough to live on. I think the system is geared towards young,affluent school leavers who don't have responsibilities like amortgage, elderly relatives to take care of etc. I struggle awayand get very little support or even a respectful hearing. Thiscoupled with the push for students to complete in three yearsirrespective of their actual circumstances creates a really hostilestudy environment in which those who should be the most supportedare the ones who get punished. If this is my experience I can onlywonder how other students whose situation is worse than mine arefaring. Neo-liberalism has clearly colonised academia in Australia.I've looked at changing universities but where on Earth can Igo?

OfflineSydney Davies Sydney Davies said 4 years ago

Kia ora Katie

I can identify with the above comments.  I am a doctoral studentalso and completed my masters in New Zealand but felt I needed togo to USA to undertake my PhD.  I had great support from staff andstudents in NZ but there was no financial support that would makemy PhD happen.  I receive both financial support and greatmentoring here in USA even though in community psychology myspecialty is indigenous psychology (I feel that I am very much theminority in this).  To the question at hand, the cohort that I grewup with (I am a very mature student now and came out of the heavygate keeping process of the past).  University was neverprovided as an option to students at high school (I was at apredominantly Maori school) but in retrospect I can see that a few(very few) students were taken aside and told that they “weregood enough” to move on to higher learning.  I was effectivelyexpelled from school in my senior year as my grades were so lowthey needed me “out” to raise the average grade of thatcohort in the school (a process of the gate keeping that precludedme from attending University at that time even if I knew about it)but now some 40 years on despite the obstacles and because of theMaori support that has grown within the NZ university system, I amin my final stage of completing my PhD. – Obstacles -marginalization, institutionalized racism, poverty, alienation ofindigenous pedagogy and indigenous ways of knowing.

kia kaha

OfflineKatie Thomas Katie Thomas said 4 years ago

Hi Sydney and Katie,

So we are looking at a range of structural barriers which arefunctioning to exclude those who aren't in a privileged or wealthylayer of the social strata. Acts of commission (limiting workoptions/inadequate funding/racism/classism) and omission (lack ofencouragement, appropriate institutional support etc). Carving outsites of resistance in a hostile environment is a great feat butthe national barriers you both describe are a real barrier. Sydney,you had to go to the States and Katie, it sounds as though you arealso considering international options. In other words, thestructural and institutional barriers posed in Australia and NZmean that good scholars may choose other bases to flourish.  I amimpressed by the willingness and tenacity you both express to findthese spaces and think that the search for such sites is, in fact,part of the challenge we face in the 21st century. Finding andcreating spaces of resistance.  Thank you for your comments.


OfflineKendra Swaine Kendra Swaine said 4 years ago

As an adjunct to this discussion, I find the value of highereducation in federal Australian priorities is wanting. It amazes mehow little financial support there is from Centrelink for highereducation, and particularly for post-graduate  studies.

In my undergraduate degree I was shocked to learn that mycentrelink benefit quadrupled if I was "unemployed" comapred to"tertiary student". THere is even less support (if any) for postgrads. From an economic viewpoint it is a false saving to assistthose trying to earn now, and neglect those who are not earning nowbut will have much greater spending power in a coupole of years.From a global village viewpoint it represents an impediment toAustralia (and probably New Zealand's) ability to compete on theworld stage.

Finally, I offer the case of Finland. It is common there forwomen to have children while at university. While I am not deeplyfamiliar with their policies, my friend's uni has a child carecentre, and two preschools, plus a primary school nearby. This iscommon. 

OfflineKatie Thomas Katie Thomas said 4 years ago

The idea of false savings is an important point and links to adeeper point of the myopia and temporal disconnect of 21st centuryperspective, not to mention the boundaried and limited perspectivetaken by Australia, the US and other similar democracies which seemto steadfastly ignore the global evidence base of laws, systems andpolicies that work!  Scandinavia feel free to hoe in on thediscussion! Please do! 

OfflineKatie Scott Katie Scott said 4 years ago

Yes please Scandinavia! It would be good to have more alternaterealities to engage with. I agree Katie and Kendra, it isshortsighted. When those who make it through the gatekeepingprocess Sydney described, survive the forced impoverishment Kendrawrote about, only to get through to doctoral level and end up with$10 an hour to live on, it's no wonder students give up, get fedup, or don't show up at all.  What I have found most problematic iswhen those who write about transformative process completely ignorethe suffering right in front of them, as though it were merely anintellectual exercise to be drafted up in the third person aboutpeople 'out there'. By no means does this apply to all those inacademia, because I think this is the exception rather than therule, and reflexive praxis is partly a process of falling over ourmistakes then getting up with genuine redress to those we hurt, amental note to self and a concerted effort to change. However Ithink a blast of cold air and some consolidated & supportedresistance would go a long way to blowing some cobwebs out of theivory tower and the national system. Academics must stand besidestudents when oppression is overt to effect meaningful, systemicchange. I'm really encouraged to hear that Sydney is nearingcompletion and has found a safer if not altogether supportive spaceto create. I hope that thesis, more than 40 years in the making,will reach us all. I would like to add sexism to Sydney's list. Theidea of intersectionality is at the forefront of my mind, readingthese comments. Mutliple layers of oppression operating to create avery real, lived experience that translates into  'we don't wantyour kind here' or 'quit your whining, you're lucky to be here'. Ihope at a future point we will have the opporunity for academics tobecome the focal point of discussion, because I suspect there issome solidarity that students could and need to provide - quid proquo.

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May 20, 2009
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