Conference review: Higher Education as a Critical Institution – the CHER 2016 Conference


Miguel Antonio Lim  (University of Manchester)

Now that next year abstract deadlines are coming up, it is just about time for reflections of what the conference season had to offer in 2016. 

This guest entry is written by Miguel Antonio Lim. He is Lecturer in Education and International Development at the University of Manchester. His research interests include the sociology of evaluation, international higher education, and professional expertise. He has worked on research projects around global university rankings and audit culture in higher education. Miguel has previously been EU-Marie Curie Fellow at Aarhus University and Executive Director of the Global Public Policy Network Secretariat. He has worked for the Asia Pacific Center at Sciences Po-Paris and taught at the London School of Economics.

The 29th Consortium of Higher Education Researchers (CHER) conference took place on the 5th-7th September at Cambridge University around the theme: ‘The University as a Critical Institution?’ While CHER is among the most popular and important research-oriented conferences in the field of higher education, the organizers noted an increased participation at the 2016 conference to almost 200 delegates.

CHER 2016 was marked by the strong presence of higher education researchers from around the world. There was a babble of languages spoken throughout the coffee breaks. Colleagues working in the UK, Russia, China, the USA, Germany, Italy, and the Nordic countries, among others, presented work about their various regions.

Apart from the geographical breadth of the conference, CHER 2016 also showcased a wide variety of disciplinary and methodological approaches towards the study of higher education. These were particularly apparent in the sessions of the conference in which Sue Wright, an anthropologist, and Vicky Boliver, a social policy scholar (using statistical methods) delivered their keynotes.

Early career researcher representation in CHER

Mari Elken  (NIFU / Hedda)

Mari Elken
(NIFU / Hedda)

Higher education as a research field is expanding and in recent years, an increasing number of early career researchers have  become active in the field.  The Consortium for Higher Education Researchers (CHER) recently included Mari Elken as a representative for early career researchers to the Board of Governors.  Currently, Mari works as a researcher at NIFU, and is in the last stages of her doctoral work at the University of Oslo. Mari is also a graduate of the Hedda master Programme in Higher Education and is the editor of the Hedda blog. This means that this time we turned the tables and the rest of the Hedda team put her into the spot of being interviewed about her new position. 

First of all, congratulations on your new task, how did you end up in this position? 

The debates about early career researchers’ role and position in the field have been going on for some time. This led to a small group of early career researchers at the CHER conference in Reykjavik in 2011 to establish ECHER – Early Career Higher Education Researchers. While ECHER is an independent network, this development was noted by CHER and last year in Belgrade, ECHER got the task to nominate someone for the CHER Board of Governors to highlight the voice of early career researchers.

This is what ECHER did this year in Lausanne at the 2013 CHER conference. I am very grateful and humbled that the ECHER group put me up for nomination and that CHER members supported ECHERs suggestion. I think this is an important development and shows that CHER takes the voice of early career researchers seriously. There are a number of issues that are common for many early career researchers in Europe and beyond, so it is wonderful that there is now an opportunity to discuss these in the wider context of higher education research and explore how the next generation can contribute to developing the field in a fruitful manner. So, I think this is really exciting!

So what exactly is ECHER? 

Thematic week: 2013 CHER conference – traditional themes and new discussions

Mitchell Young (Charles University)

Mitchell Young
(Charles University)

This guest entry is written by Mitchell Young who is currently working at Charles University in Prague (Czech Republic) in the Department of West European Studies where he is conducting his doctoral research on issues related to European Higher Education and Research Area. 

In the guest entry he gives his insights about the recent CHER (Consortium for Higher Education Researchers) conference in Lausanne. And – we would also like to highlight that Mitchell received the best PhD paper award at the CHER conference – well done! 

The 2013 annual conference of the Consortium of Higher Education Researchers (CHER) was held in Lausanne, Switzerland from September 9-11. It was my second time attending the CHER conference, and thus I approached it with a bit less trepidation but a bit more tiredness after having spent the previous four days attending the ECPR conference. Arriving in Lausanne I went directly to a preconference workshop of the Early Career Higher Education Researchers network (ECHER), where Manja Klemenčič, the incoming editor of the European Journal of Higher Education, gave a talk entitled “How to get published in journals and tips on improving your academic writing, from the vantage point of the European Journal of Higher Education.” She provided valuable insights into the process of getting published and encouraged us to make our academic writing more interesting, engaging and concise, recommending a book by Helen Sword, Stylish Academic Writing. There was ample time to discuss our ideas and concerns with her, such as working on collaborative papers, self-citations, how much to use quotations in qualitative articles, getting feedback, recognizing when a paper is ready to be submitted to a journal, reasons for rejection, and the importance of a good title.

The CHER conference began on Monday morning. The theme of this year’s conference was The Roles of Higher Education and Research in the Fabric of Societies. The call for papers noted the “growing if somewhat fragmented body of research on HER systems” and envisions the theme as “umbrella” under which to foster discussions that might cross the usual boundaries. The weather forecast also called for an umbrella of the more physical sort, but as dictated by Murphy’s law, once I had purchased one, the rain held off allowing us to move around the University of Lausanne campus without getting soaked.  The theme of the conference led us to ponder the roles of higher education and research, but also required an answer to the question of what is meant by the “fabric of societies”? That more sociological direction was evidenced by the choice of keynote speakers Michele Lamont and Sheldon Rothblatt. Overall, though, the conference included papers from a broad set of disciplines.

Early Career Higher Education Researchers (ECHER) event at CHER 2013

ECHERThe 26th CHER Annual Conference will take place at University of Lausanne  from 9 to 11 September 2013.

This year, the conference is themed “The Roles of Higher Education and Research in the Fabric of Societies“, and it is jointly organised by  the Observatory Science, Politic and Society (OSPS) and the Institute for Social Sciences (ISS) of the University of Lausanne Faculty of Social and Political Sciences.

If you are an early career researcher – there is also a relevant pre-conference event. The Early Career Higher Education Researchers (ECHER) is holding a whole day seminar on 8th of September, that will be open to all existing and new members. Read more about ECHER network here.

The preliminary programme for t he event includes:

  • 11:00 – 13:00   Think tanks on issues of interest to early career researchers
  • 13:00 – 14:30   Lunch
  • 14:30 – 15:30   Manja Klemenčič: How to get published in journals and tips on improving your academic writing (European Journal of Higher Education)
  • 15:30 – 16:00   Coffee break
  • 16:00 – 18:00   ECHER business (e.g., update on tasks; choose way of electing committee members; choose member representative on CHER board )
  • 19:00  – Welcome dinner

If you want to join the event, confirm your attendance by emailing Yurgos Politis (yurgos.politis@ucd.ie).

Also – watch out for similar events at other major higher education conferences! 

25th annual CHER conference – current trends in HE research

In this post, Hedda associate Mari Elken collects some impressions from the latest CHER conference. What were the main themes that emerged and what were the highlights of the conference?

Earlier in September the 25th CHER (Consortium for Higher Education Research) conference was held in Belgrade, co-hosted the Centre for Education Policy (CEP) and the Centre for Education Policy Studies of the University of Ljubljana Faculty of Education (CEPS), and this year was themed “Higher Education and Social Dynamics”. Connected to this, the second ECHER (Early Career Higher Education Researchers) network was held, and the conference was ended with a post-conference symposium in Ljubljana.

CHER covers a wide range of topics and as a conference it aims to be a comprehensive one, covering various aspects of higher education research. While this was also the case in Beograd, one can notice that there is a relative skewness towards policy, governance and organisational topics. When commenting on the impressions on main themes, Dominik Antonowicz, a researcher from Poland, highlighted two: autonomy and internationalisation, and he was pleased that the latter is “no longer seen as a process of “universities becoming more international” but internationalisation is more like a way to sell  normative political and institutional order“.