Conflict-affected women's discourses about access to higher education
This dissertation examined the discourses of 10 underserved women working to access higher education, in relation to the discourses of formal efforts to provide education access via international organizations (IOs) such as the United Nations. The purpose of this dissertation was to better understand whether and how the discourses of these women were aligned with those of these international organizations, with a focus on the purposes of higher education, and the roles of these women in relation to these purposes. The primary source of data for this analysis were essays these women had written as part of an application to an international scholarship program. The study was shaped by a review of literature on access to higher education for nontraditional students including refugees, women, and those in low- and lower-middle-income countries. Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) provided both the theoretical framework and the method of analysis. The analysis highlighted the complex nature of these 10 women's relationships with higher education. Findings suggested that efforts by IOs to improve access to underserved populations should consider that students may be simultaneously victimized and victorious, and that education plays both transactional and transformational roles in their experiences. The use of their scholarship essays provided a means through which their voices could be heard, as they have not traditionally been involved in shaping the educational research and policies that impact their experiences. Their experiences fall outside of most research on nontraditional students, refugees, and students from lower income countries. The complexity of their experiences as outlined through this research may help shape additional research about how underserved populations at the intersection of multiple underserved groups.
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