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The Centre on Social Movement Studies

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Student Struggles and Power Relations in Contemporary Universities. The Cases of Italy and England

Lorenzo Cini

The chapter sheds light on the type of institutional response that the recent student mobilizations in England and Italy set in motion locally. While this topic has been relatively widely researched in the US, the same cannot be said about Europe. To date, no study has been carried out on the institutional reaction to student activism within individual universities. How do individual universities react to student mobilizations? What kind of strategies does the university establishment adopt? This chapter aims to assess and compare the counter strategies that the leadership of some Italian and English universities adopted in facing the student mobilizations that occurred within them.

Type: Chapter in edited book
Year: 2016

Social movement scholars have generally disregarded the study of mobilizations within institutions. Even less well-studied are the effects that such mobilizations provoke. This is precisely the topic that the present chapter investigates. More specifically, the chapter sheds light on the type of institutional response that the recent student mobilizations in England and Italy set in motion locally. While this topic has been relatively widely researched in the US, the same cannot be said about Europe. To date, no study has been carried out on the institutional reaction to student activism within individual universities. How do individual universities react to student mobilizations? What kind of strategies does the university establishment adopt? This chapter aims to assess and compare the counter strategies that the leadership of some Italian and English universities adopted in facing the student mobilizations that occurred within them. My hypothesis is that type of leadership makes a difference in terms of institutional response. That is to say, academic leaders tend to be more interested in restoring the conditions ensuring a good environment for teaching and research than challenging student protesters on their terrain. This leads such leaders to be more eager to negotiate and compromise with internal challengers. By contrast, academic managers, whose principal objective is to make their universities highly competitive within the market of higher education, are generally more concerned about neutralizing potential challengers, who might damage the reputation and functioning of the university. In dealing with student mobilizations, then, academic managers are more likely to be confrontational and repressive than academics. Building on this first understanding of the differences between the English and Italian systems, the research questions that I will attempt to answer in the present chapter are the following: were there any differences in terms of institutional response between Italian and English universities when they were faced with student mobilizations? If there were, how can such differences be explained?

Brooks R., Student Politics and Protest: International Perspectives, London: Routledge, 2016

News

13/12/2017

Call for Paper: Conference “1968-2018, fifty years after: Where is the social movements field going?”

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Taking the 1968 anniversary as a stimulating moment for reflection, this conference seeks to provide space for looking at the implications of that period on social movement research as well as addressing a number of key questions in current social movement research.

04/12/2017

Martin Portos Garcia wins the ISA's Seventh Worldwide Competition for Junior Sociologists

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The International Sociological Association has just announced the list of the winners of the Seventh Worldwide Competition for Junior Sociologists engaged in social research, amongst which Martin Portos Garcia - post-doc fellow at COSMOS

10/11/2017

Call for Application Now Open: Summer School on Youth Political Participation in Times of Inequalities

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We are pleased to announce that the call for applications is now open for the Summer School on Youth Political Participation in Times of Inequalities, sponsored by the Reinventing Democracy in Europe: Youth Doing Politics in Times of Increasing Inequalities project (EURYKA) and the Centre on Social Movement Studies (COSMOS).

Publications

Journal Article - 2017

Repertoires of knowledge practices: Social movements in times of crisis

Donatella della Porta and Elena Pavan
Starting from the assumption that knowledge becomes all the more important for movements in times of crisis, as old structures are challenged and new ones envisaged and proved feasible, the purpose of this paper is to suggest ways to expand the toolkit of social movement studies in order to empirically address knowledge practices as a meaningful part of contemporary progressive activism.

Journal Article - 2017

’Solidarietà sconvenienti’. Reti online di estrema destra contro e per la riforma dell’Europa

Elena Pavan and Manuela Caiani
By focusing on the websites of extreme right organizations in six European countries (Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom) and by making a combined use of digital research tools and social network analysis, we explore how extreme right organizations make a strategic use of ICTs to connect in the online space and the arguments they move forward to criticize and reform current projects of European integration. Our results suggest that ICTs sustain the construction of inconvenient solidarities in heterogeneous ways, supporting different modes of online conversations amongst extreme right websites which, in turn, affect their capacity to propose shared critiques and proposals to reform the European Union.