Reconsidering vulnerability in higher education

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Vulnerability appears to be increasing in the neoliberal and corporate authoritarian university, but few articles have explored vulnerability in depth in higher education. This paper provides a systematic understanding of vulnerability and considers its implications for academics. First, the author examines vulnerability as conceptualized within psychological and philosophical lenses. The author posits that vulnerability has positive potential and is not just a cause for concern. Next, the paper explores vulnerability in terms of relationality and afect in the context of diferent professional and social positions, and the rise of managerialism in diverse national and disciplinary environments. That vulnerability circulates through interrelations suggests that it is not a problem that can be ameliorated through giving academics more resources as individuals. Rather, vulnerability stems not from individual neediness or fragility, but from interactive operations and processes within communities. The essay concludes by considering the implications of reconceptualizing academic vulnerability alternatively as a positive learning disposition in higher education. Copyright © 2018 European Higher Education Society
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)232-241
JournalTertiary Education and Management
Issue number3
Early online date01 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


Jackson, L. (2018). Reconsidering vulnerability in higher education. Tertiary Education and Management, 24(3), 232-241. doi: 10.1080/13583883.2018.1439999


  • Vulnerability
  • Higher education
  • Neoliberalism
  • Academic identity


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