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You are reading: Just Imaginary: delimiting social inclusion in higher education

Written by Professor Trevor Gale (Deakin University) and Dr Steven Hodge (Griffith University)

Published in the British Journal of Sociology of Education Vol 35 Issue 5

21 Aug 2014


This paper explores the notion of a ‘just imaginary’ for social inclusion in higher education. It responds to the current strategy of OECD nations to expand higher education and increase graduate numbers, as a way of securing a competitive advantage in the global knowledge economy. The Australian higher education system provides the case for analysis. Three dilemmas for social inclusion policy in this context are identified: questions of sustainability, aspiration and opportunity. The paper argues that while social inclusion policy has ‘first-order’ effects in higher education, a just imaginary is required for more inclusive ‘second-order’ effects to be realized. It concludes that transformation of the current imaginary will require a more robust theorisation of relations between social inclusion and higher education, to give new and unifying meaning to existing practices and to generate new ones. Short of this, social inclusion may be little more than just imaginary.

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Gale, T. and Hodge, S. 2014. “Just Imaginary: delimiting social inclusion in higher education.” British Journal of Sociology of Education, 35(5). 688-709. DOI: 10.1080/01425692.2014.919841.