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Contextualizing rationality: Mature student carers and higher education in England


  • Stella Gonzalez-Arnal
  • Majella Kilkey


In England, the Government has implemented policies to increase and diversify participation in higher education (HE). Changes in funding arrangements that shift the burden of paying for education from the state to individuals have also been introduced. To reconcile the contradiction between widening participation and the individualization of the costs of study, HE is being framed as a risk-free and individualized financial investment. Informed by critiques from feminist economics and the philosophy of “rational economic man,” this paper argues that the government's HE policies are permeated by a narrow concept of reason and presuppose highly individualized, instrumental, and economic actors. Drawing on the findings from two studies conducted at the University of Hull, this paper demonstrates how this understanding of human behavior is incongruent with the experiences of one group of students - mature student carers - whose life choices are informed by their caring responsibilities.

Suggested Citation

  • Stella Gonzalez-Arnal & Majella Kilkey, 2009. "Contextualizing rationality: Mature student carers and higher education in England," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 15(1), pages 85-111.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:femeco:v:15:y:2009:i:1:p:85-111
    DOI: 10.1080/13545700802528323

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    More about this item


    Higher education; mature students; rational economic man; care; gender; rationality; JEL Codes: I28; J16; I2;

    JEL classification:

    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education


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