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Theorising young people's aspirations in a global context: An interdisciplinary conference

Timings: 9.30am to 5.30pm



This interdisciplinary 2 day conference aims to advance conceptual understanding of how young people form, experience and deploy aspiration; the global institutions and processes that shape young people’s aspirations; and the outcomes of aspiration for young people and for wider society.

Recent empirical research from diverse contexts worldwide has reported on the expressed desires of young people to ‘become someone’. Meanwhile, global institutions and national governments represent aspiration as a key to understanding inequality and a motivating force that can inspire social change. Aspiration is understood to play a key role in shaping young people’s engagement with education, politics and migration. Yet despite the burgeoning attention to aspiration in both research and policy, its theorisation remains relatively neglected.

We welcome papers that address the theorisation of young people’s aspirations. These may consider, but need not be confined to, the following themes.

Aspiration as an instrumental discourse: How is aspiration deployed as a tool of neoliberal governmentality? Is aspiration a prerequisite for social change? How do young people mobilise aspiration to project virtuous identities?

Aspiration as an orientation to the future: What are the limits of aspiration an analytical concept? Does it shed valuable light on youth temporalities? How does it relate to other modes of orienting to the future such as hope, expectation, or desire?

Aspiration as produced and productive: How do dominant norms shape aspiration? What roles are played by affect and emotion? How do aspirations relate to individual and collective agency?

Knowing young people’s aspirations: How meaningful are speech-based research methods for understanding young people’s aspirations? What forms of research might give access to aspects of aspiration that are inarticulable? What do different disciplinary perspectives have to offer?


Key Note speakers

Professor Jo Boyden, University of Oxford

Professor  Sam Punch, University of Stirling


For more information please read the concept note 


Abstract submission

Please submit titles and abstracts (200 words max), along with names and affiliations of authors, to Claire.Dungey@brunel.ac.uk by Friday 9th February.

For Registration instructions - CLICK HERE (prices below)

  • 2 day conference  ticket UNWAGED  £30
  •  2 day conference ticket WAGED £50




The conference will take place in the Hamilton Centre, Brunel University London, Kingston Lane, Uxbridge, UB8 3PH.


Can be booked at the Lancaster Hotel, 2 minutes walk to the conference venue

Quote “Theorising aspiration”  to receive the rates below:

  • Accommodation on 26th March £60
  • Accommodation on 26th March including breakfast £68.75
  • Accommodation 27th March £60
  • Accommodation 27th March including breakfast £68.75


Lancaster hotel phone number:

Tel +44 (0)18952 68006

Tel +44 (0)18952 68903

Lancaster hotel email:



For more information about our research project, please see   www.education-aspiration.net

FREE REGISTRATION FOR BRUNEL STAFF AND POSTGRADUATES- email; Claire.Dungey@brunel.ac.uk to register

Options for public transport are avaiable, pelase see attached the campus map.

If you are driving please sign in at the Eastern Gateway reception where you will receive a visitors parking permit.