UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Learning to walk the wire : preparing students for precarious life Taylor, Alison, 1959-


University students today are preparing for a more precarious future than previous generations, and the global pandemic has exacerbated their sense of insecurity and vulnerability. Drawing on data from a longitudinal study of undergraduate students at a large Canadian university, this paper examines the narratives of working students, before and since the pandemic lockdowns began in early 2020. Narratives focus on students’ attempts to handle the diverse rhythms of multiple activities, and how they respond to precariousness in work, family, and academic studies. Findings illustrate intractable tensions within higher education between logics of competition and care, and between access and selectivity. Further, universities, as well as employers, can be seen to contribute to the precarity of students, and to a ‘crisis of care’ in society more generally. Our analysis suggests the need for a more expansive and generous vision for higher education, which recognizes and supports students in their diversity.

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