Border crossings : in/exclusion and higher education in art and design
This study explores ideas of inclusion and exclusion - in/exclusion - within art and education contexts, more specifically how they shift and alter within the processes of selection to one Scottish institution of Higher Education in Art and Design. The empirical focus of selection is told through detailed narratives that follow the thinking and responses of a diversity of selectors to the visual and written submissions of wide ranging applicants. These discussions make visible the ways in which candidates are deliberated into and out of the institution and are layered further by a broader quantitative look, exploring how this detail plays out more widely in the chances of in/exclusion across all applicants. This research has implications for a number of areas, including policy and practice on social in/exclusion, particularly as it relates to the arts and Higher Education. However, it is not solely an access or admissions study; it tries to extend understanding and approaches to in/exclusion by questioning what people are being included into as well as the ways of in/excluding. It gets inside and lays open a process of decision-making that has not previously been explored in this kind of depth and is made visible here through an often troubling, personal, methodological and theoretical assemblage of stories and crossings. My own shifts as a learner, artist and educator en/unfold with selection narratives and rich visual images that confront and question issues of representation, difference and risk as they surface within the research. It is this very detail of insight, getting inside those areas that are often unspoken and unseen that makes this investigation so unusual, adding new layers of questioning and understanding to the many approaches that exist in thinking and acting on in/exclusion. If there was any sense that in/exclusion to Higher Education in the Arts and Design might be determined or resolved simply by altering indicators and numbers in terms of social class, education or the spatiality of where an individual lives, then this study offers a different kind of view. It reveals a more complex process of looking and decision-making, in which selectors often try to see beyond the surface of the visual and written in search of the individual. It shows the shifting balance in what is looked for in a process that is fraught with chance, ethics, trust and emotional dilemmas. In doing so, it makes the case for a more reflexive and ontological engagement in approaches to in/exclusion. Nothing is certain. In/exclusion becomes an assemblage of elements that displace across selectors, taking new forms and combinations that are rooted in qualities that applicants bring with them as well as what selectors bring into the process. How these fold together can lead to very different outcomes.