The Luxury of Time: working towards better understandings of unequal temporal resources and the impact of time for students in higher education

Year: 2016

Author: Burke, Penny Jane, Bunn, Matthew, Bennett, Anna, Stevenson, Jacqueline

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Despite the foundational role of ‘time’ in organising higher education experiences, it has received little attention in research (Stevenson and Clegg 2012). This is unfortunate, given that one of the main reasons students from equity groups cite for leaving study is ‘lack of time’ and ‘time pressures’ (e.g. Horstmanshof and Zimitat, 2007). This paper outlines a recent project that explores perceptions of ‘time’, ‘time pressures’ and ‘lack of time’ and how they impact on the educational experiences of students from diverse equity groups. The analysis provides a platform from which assumptions of ‘time’ and ‘time-management’, conventionally considered to be an individual problem―simply the result of an individual’s lack of organisation and choices―can be re-configured in more informed, socially aware and responsive ways. We argue that the way temporal constraints are conventionally understood in pedagogical and institutional contexts tend to exacerbate, rather than ameliorate, inequalities and exclusion in higher education. Influenced by theorisations of ‘time’ in scholarly literature from the fields of Sociology and Physics, the approach was informed by the hypothesis that experiences of time are differential and distinctly ‘relational’. The ways time is experienced is deeply interconnected with social, cultural, material and geographic relations of difference and power. Time commitments, for example, may be significantly stretched and constrained according to particularities of geographic distance, SES status, gender, disability and other such contingencies. However, the issue is not simply about ‘making time’ to travel to university, complete study or fit in childcare because time management itself is embedded in complex social relations with unequal access to temporal resources. In this session we outline the project methodology, key project findings and recommendations for improving access to ‘the luxury of time’ in higher education.