July 2023: Homelessness, Mobility, and Housing Precarity in Higher Education

This is part of our special feature, Homelessness and Poverty in Europe.


In this section of Campus, EuropeNow features a selection of scholarly articles and books on topics pertinent to the teaching of Europe or teaching in Europe that were published within the last 5 years. This dynamic bibliography, with monthly installments, seeks to highlight both pedagogy research and critical analyses of debates taking place in higher education in and about Europe.


1. ‘I didn’t know what strong was until it was required’: factors that promote retention among homeless students in higher education

By Patrick Mulrenan, Julia Atkins, and Simon Cox
In the Journal of Further and Higher Education

Abstract: This study examines the experience of homeless university students. A focus group and in-depth interviews were conducted among 16 homeless students at a university in London to determine the factors that enable them to remain at university despite being homeless. Homelessness has been increasing in the UK since 2010, particularly in London. Combined with the widening participation initiative, which encourages access to Higher Education for more disadvantaged communities, this means that increasing numbers of students may face homelessness during their studies. The study demonstrates considerable personal resilience among homeless students. These students find it hard to fully engage with other students, or with the wider university experience. Most were in fact too embarrassed to tell their university friends that they were homeless. Key factors that promoted resilience were sense of purpose, personal determination, and the relationship with their families. The critical relationship was, however, with their children. Decisions to attend and remain at university were based not on having a role model, but on the desire to provide a positive role model to their children. The study also acknowledges wider structural factors; homelessness is influenced by national and international trends outside the influence of individual and institutional actors.


2. Geographies of purpose built student accommodation: Exclusivity, precarity and (im)mobility

By Alice Reynolds
In Geography Compass

Abstract: Purpose Built Student Accommodation is increasingly dominating the urban landscapes of university locations. Yet a focus on student accommodation beyond “studentification” remains under-researched and under-analysed in geography and housing studies. Drawing upon pre-existing studies and new insights from the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, this paper provides an analysis of the contemporary student accommodation sector and the distinct geographies this creates. The paper argues that the neoliberalisation of the student accommodation sector has (re)produced three distinct outcomes: exclusivity, precarity, and (im)mobility, themes of increasing attention within geography and beyond. In concluding, the paper argues that student accommodation is a key vector in which inequalities produced by neoliberalism are articulated and displayed, reflective of a wider global trend.


3. Mobility as homelessness: The uprooted lives of early career researchers

By Corina Balaban
In Learning and Teaching: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences

Abstract: This article discusses three kinds of mobility among early stage researchers: geographical mobility, mobility between disciplines – or interdisciplinarity – and cross-sectoral mobility. It focuses on how PhD fellows engage with and negotiate experiences of mobility. These types of mobility have largely been presented as inherently beneficial in mainstream policy discourse, but this article presents a more nuanced picture of mobility, showing the challenges of mobility, as experienced and articulated by PhD fellows and some of their supervisors. The research is based on twenty-six interviews with PhD fellows and principal investigators involved in two types of flagship doctoral programmes: the ITN in Europe, and the IGERT in the United States. The main finding is that PhD fellows associated all three types of mobility with feelings of homelessness.


4. Homelessness and adult education in the UK and Malta

By Kelly-Marie Roberts
In the Malta Review of Educational Research

Abstract: In this piece, I aim to present a critical commentary on the relationship between adult education and homelessness in two different European contexts: the United Kingdom and Malta. As a developing adult educator from the UK, with experience of living in Malta, I am in a privileged position to be able to draw on knowledge and experience in both contexts to illuminate the topic in a comparative way. I position myself as a feminist adult educator who supports a capabilities or asset-based approach to development (see, for example bell hooks, 1994, Sen, 1999, Foot & Hopkins, 2010, and El Khayat, 2018). After several years working in community education with marginalized groups in the UK and Global South (South America and Southern Africa), I recently came to live in the small, southern Mediterranean island nation of Malta, where I undertook a student placement with a homelessness charity (January-June 2018). At the time of writing, there is limited data showing the scale and impact of homelessness in Malta so whilst focusing in particular on Malta and the UK, reference will also be made to research from other countries.


5. Academic Brexodus? Brexit and the dynamics of mobility and immobility among the precarious research workforce

By Aline Courtois and Marie Sautier
In the British Journal of Sociology of Education

Abstract: The article contributes to the emerging literature on the intersection of academic mobility and precarity by examining the impact of the 2016 Brexit referendum result on the mobility and immobility projects of migrant academics on temporary contracts. We draw on 22 interviews conducted with early-career researchers in the UK and Switzerland. We examine how the Brexit process threatened participants’ sense of citizenship and belonging, heightening their sense of vulnerability both as migrants and as temporary workers, sometimes making immobility the only viable option. We show how it made visible hidden hierarchies and fault lines, prompting unequal strategies as researchers struggled to maintain their prerogatives as members of their communities. Passport privilege and the ‘good migrant’ figure emerged as central to these individualised strategies. The article challenges the framing of academic mobility as a natural and beneficial career move for early-career researchers grappling with the added uncertainties caused by Brexit.


Image: Shutterstock | The Maksymovych Scientific Library, Kiev, Ukraine.


Published on July 6, 2023.



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