Gender equity perspectives in Swedish universities’ programme evaluations: Strengthening gender justice or just another brick in the wall of neoliberal higher education?

Year: 2019

Author: Kreitz-Sandberg, Susanne

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

From a social justice perspective gender equity is more than equal participation and access; gender equity is closely related to identity work and for understanding the effectiveness of gender progressive policies we need to explore how different practices are realised in higher education. Stromquist and Fischman (2009) argued for the need for training of teachers and school administrators on conflict, misunderstanding and miscommunication regarding gender issues. Educational actors need to acquire knowledge and skills, to understand school culture from a gender perspective and to deal with particular situations, instead of avoiding or ignoring them. According to UNESCO (2015) “curricula set by many TEIs around the world […] reveals a grave shortcoming regarding issues of gender equality.” (p. 60) Gender equality issues are said to be neglected in all courses.

The project analyses reports by teacher education programmes to the Swedish Agency of Higher Education on their work with gender equity in teacher education and training. Teacher education is in Sweden divided in different programmes for teachers in preschool, preschool-class through grade 3, grade 4 to 6 or subject teachers (lower or upper secondary school). Teacher education programmes need to be accredited by the Swedish Agency for Higher Education. The agency conducts also evaluations of the programmes. During the most recent programme evaluations a new question on gender equity has been introduced into the universities self-reports in 2019. Research in Nordic countries has documented different strategies of working with gender awareness and gender inclusion (e.g. Lahelma, 2008, Kreitz-Sandberg, 2013). The present study will investigate how teacher educators describe their work with gender equity in their respective primary school education programmes. The author has received full self-evaluation reports of all teacher education programmes in Sweden and analysed the descriptions.

Except of comparing the diversity of approaches in different universities, the presentation will also discuss the merits and limitations of such a top-down initiative by the Agency of Higher Education. Will such initiatives strengthen gender justice or are they just another brick in the wall of neoliberal higher education and the evaluation hype? Sweden has for a long time been known for its high standards of gender equality. In 2019, 12 Australian universities were reported in the Top 100-list of universities for gender equality based on data collected for the Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings. That makes it interesting to discuss our results from Sweden with colleagues from Australia.