Transit and Transition: Student Identity and the Contested Landscape of Higher Education

Part of the Studies in Childhood and Youth book series (SCY)


Universities have been considered a transitional space which, of course, brings into question notions of “belonging”. With the massification of higher education and an increased focus on widening participation in many countries, the demographics of the student body have been changing, challenging the essentialised notion of “the student” so central to the policy imaginarium. This chapter critically examines the question of student “belonging” as invoked in models of transition, engagement and what this may mean for retention. Focusing on space I consider the complexities of power, space, time and movement, and provide theoretical tools to position the university as a site of contestation of identity, inclusion/exclusion, belonging/otherness, and mattering/marginality. Drawing on a study of self-identified “non-traditional” students studying in Scotland, this chapter explores how these students engage with space and place, how they construct their identities as students and navigate transitions within this, and how they forge a sense of place and construct belonging in these contested landscapes.


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.LancasterUK

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