Downs, Yvonne (2009) It's a bit like giving birth. Middle-aged women graduates talk about their experience of higher education. In: DPR8: Power and the Academy The 8th Discourse, Power, Resistance Conference, 6th - 8th April 2009, University of Manchester. (Unpublished)

‘It’s a bit like giving birth’. Middle aged women graduates talk about their experience of higher education.

This paper asks ‘What is needed if we are to re-imagine the academy?’ It assumes rather than interrogates the desirability of aspiring to a wider academy and public spaces in which new knowledge is produced.

To begin answering the question I turn to those who have contributed their stories to my postgraduate research which aims to interrupt both official and common sense talk about the value of higher education.

The storytellers are women like me (and, of course, simultaneously not like me at all), who were born and raised in white working class families and who were the first in those families to enter higher education in the 70s and early 80s. These are the tales of those who roam the margins, whether inside or outside the academy, and who can therefore offer a richly nuanced perspective.

Using a series of vignettes taken from the transcripts of the stories told, I argue, perhaps provocatively, that such stories encapsulate and exemplify what it might mean to have a wider academy, one that does make a difference in a changing world.

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