Higher Education: A Place for Activism and Resistance?

SRHE International Conference 2024
Monday 2nd December (online) and 4th – 6th December (in-person at the East Midlands Conference Centre in Nottingham, UK).

Higher education has always had a role in engaging with society’s ‘wicked issues’, with academics consciously engaging with or being drawn into politically-charged discussions about a wide variety of issues including climate change, human rights, migration, nationalism, conflict and war-torn societies, medical ethics, resource scarcity, or economic issues (both global and country-specific).  The borderland between activism and dialogue is, however, a contested one and gives rise to a number of concerns.

The rise of post-truthism and the erosion of longstanding epistemic structures, for example, are potentially shifting the role that higher education plays in society, particularly with growing pressure on academics to have research ‘impact’ at a time of public contestation of expertise.  Universities are being pressed to play ever-increasing roles in addressing societal concerns, but are also challenged by the line between social critique, dissent and insubordination.  And while universities are being ‘opened up’, and efforts made to decolonise curricula, this has surfaced issues surrounding academic freedom and freedom of speech on university campuses, including the erosion of secure conditions for academic autonomy. At the same time, we have entered a period where various forms of activism and resistance have become mainstreamed internationally and across the political and social spectrum; movements in which many staff and students in higher education have been involved, either individually or collectively.

This year’s conference seeks to explore the ways in which staff and students are, and have historically been, involved in various forms of activism and ask questions about the future roles that higher education – and the people in it – might take.

Dr Jan McArthur is Head of Department and Senior Lecturer in Education and Social Justice, Department of Educational Research, Lancaster University, UK.  Her research focuses on the nature and purposes of higher education, and how these relate to teaching, learning and assessment, as seen from the perspective of education and social justice, informed by critical theory. Dr McArthur will be delivering the conference keynote on Wednesday 4 December. More details to follow.

Alice Sullivan is Professor of Sociology at the UCL Social Research Institute. Professor Sullivan’s research focusses on social and educational inequalities in the life course. She has made extensive use of secondary data analysis of large-scale longitudinal data sets in her research, with a particular focus on the British birth cohort studies of 1958, 1970 and 2000. She has published on areas including: social class and sex differences in educational attainment, single-sex and co-educational schooling, private and grammar schools, cultural capital, reading for pleasure, social mobility, and health inequalities. She has also written about conflicts between scholarly and scientific values and gender identity politics.

She will be speaking on academic freedom: activism, politics, and knowledge production as part of a plenary panel on Thursday 5 December 2024. More details to follow.

Conference Registration

The Conference will comprise 1 virtual conference day (2nd Dec 2024, online via Zoom) followed by a travel day, and then 3 in-person conference days (4th – 6th Dec 2024, at the East Midlands Conference Centre, Nottingham).

SRHE members can attend the online day free-of-charge and will be able to access a discounted rate for the in-person element. For more about SRHE membership and its benefits, click here.

Delegates are welcome to attend online, in person, or both – please note that attending both formats will require two bookings:

Online conference registration:

Online registration fees
SRHE member (including student members)* free
Non-member £160
Student non-member £80

*To book your free place as an SRHE member, please ensure you are logged into your SRHE member account at the time of registration.

In-person conference registration:

The in-person conference registration includes:

  • All conference sessions over the 3 days, including poster exhibition
  • Wed 4th December: lunch, refreshments, evening drinks reception and evening buffet dinner
  • Thurs 5th December: lunch, refreshments and evening buffet dinner
  • Fri 6th December: refreshments and lunch

Please note that conference registration does not include accommodation. This must be booked separately by delegates. Information about accommodation associated with the conference centre can be found on the conference page of the website.

In-person conference registration fees*


Early booking

(by 23rd September)

Standard booking

(24th September onwards)

SRHE member  £450 £510
Non-member  £570 £630
SRHE student member**  £350 £410

* Please note: There are NO day rates; full registration fees apply regardless of time spent at the conference.

** A limited number of subsidised places are available to SRHE student members

Registration for the 2024 SRHE conference is now open.

To register for the online day of the 2024 SRHE International Research Conference which takes place on Monday 2 December 2024, click here.

To register for in-person days of the 2024 SRHE International Research Conference, which takes place Wednesday 4th – Friday 6th December 2024 at the East Midlands Conference Centre in Nottingham, UK. click here.

Contact Us

If you have any queries, please use our live chat (available at the bottom right-hand corner of any page on our website), or alternatively e-mail:

  • Dr Rihana Suliman, SRHE Manager: Conferences and Events: rihana.suliman@srhe.ac.uk
  • If your query relates to conference sponsorship or other forms of engagement, please include Mariam Ismail, SRHE Engagement and Development Manager, in your correspondence: mariam.ismail@srhe.ac.uk