Past Event details

Exploring Capability Theory in Higher Education Research: UK and International Perspectives

Wednesday, 07 June 2017

A seminar, jointly convened by the following networks :

Academic Practice
International Research and Researchers
Post Compulsory and Higher Education   
It will introduce the basic elements of Capability Theory associated with Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum. In addition, the speakers will explore how the theory is being used in HE Research, its benefits and the challenges it poses. The speakers will draw on research both in the UK and internationally.


Dr, Rosie Peppin-Vaughan, Institute of Education, UCL

Capability Theory: Introduction to basic concepts

In the first session, Rosie Peppin Vaughan will give an introduction to the capability approach, looking at its initial development as an evaluative framework for looking at poverty and inequality, and outlining the basic concepts. The talk will also map some of the applications so far in education, and gender.


Professor Melanie Walker, University of the Free State South Africa

The capability approach and higher education research: theoretical and empirical insights’

The capability (or capabilities) approach developed by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum has attracted interest among higher education researchers looking to develop an alternative imaginary for policy and practices. It is fair to say that the approach is not theoretically widespread; yet it is deserving of a wider audience for the conceptual and empirical insights it can generate for rich dialogues about more just higher education across diverse North and South contexts and systems; for bringing debates about higher education on the one hand, and development on the other into conversation; for its interdisciplinary approach; and for its grasp of intersectionalities. This paper sets out the conceptual architecture of the approach and then considers its empirical potential in relation to work on employability and inclusive development and on gender and agency. Gaps and limitations in the approach are also considered.


Professor Monica Mclean, University of Nottingham

Epistemological access and capability expansion at university

From a human development perspective university education is capability expanding. Scholars applying the capability approach to higher education propose lists of capabilities that a university education can expand which have a good deal of overlap; for example, capabilities for social relations; for a learning disposition; and for forming aspirations frequently appear.  As might be expected, the capability for ‘knowledge’ appears in some form in all these lists. During this talk, the case will be made that in relation to university education the capability for ‘knowledge’ is in Martha Nussbaum’s terms ‘architectonic’ in that other capabilities expanded by university education are ‘suffus[ed] and organiz[ed]’ (1997, p. 265-266) by it. Drawing on research about undergraduate sociology curriculum and pedagogy, which used the concepts of the sociologist of education Basil Bernstein, it is argued that students’ access to bodies of (inter) disciplinary or professional knowledge that can transform them individually and allow them to function as citizens and workers in democratic society 

Network: Joint Network Events
Date(s): Wednesday, 07 June 2017
Times: 11.00-15.30
Location: SRHE, 73 Collier St, London N1 9BE
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Event Files
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Melanie Walker
THE CAPABILITY APPROACH AND HIGHER EDUCATION RESEARCH, SRHE Seminar, London, 7 June 2017 Melanie Walker ( Centre for Research on Higher Education & Development (CRHED)
Epistemological Access and Capability Expansion at University: Key Concepts
Professor Monica McLean
The capability approach: an introduction
Dr Rosie Peppin-Vaughan, UCL Institute of Education
Epistemological access and capability expansion at university Monica McLean
Epistemological access and capability expansion at university Monica McLean
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