'Non-traditional' and 'traditional' students at a regional Finnish University: demanding customers and school pupils in need of support
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CitationSiivonen, Päivi. Filander, Karin. (2020). 'Non-traditional' and 'traditional' students at a regional Finnish University: demanding customers and school pupils in need of support. International journal of lifelong education, [Epub ahead of print 13 May 2020], 10.1080/02601370.2020.1758814.
This article explores university students’ constructions of the ideal student at present-day university, that emphasises student-as-consumer culture and employability rather than education as a virtue in itself. The research is based on thematic narrative accounts (n = 67) generated in a generalist field in one regional Finnish university. We apply a narrative-discursive approach to analyse how ‘traditional’ young students (n = 34) and ‘non-traditional’ mature students (n = 33) position themselves in relation to the ideal good student in a present-day university and in relation to their university studies. Moreover, we examine some of the consequences of such positionings for the students themselves. Our analysis indicates that the present-day university student is constructed in line with the ideal student of the neoliberal order and student-as-consumer culture. However, whereas mature students positioned themselves as customers and were comfortable with the demands of today’s university for self-directedness and self-responsibility, younger students positioned themselves as ‘school pupils’ and were critical about being left on their own without adequate support. The study suggests that the terms ‘traditional’ and ‘non-traditional’ make differences related to age and different kinds of student positionings visible and, thus, also possible to reconstruct the ideals and normalities of the present-day neoliberal university.