Rurality and access to higher education

Sheila M Trahar*, Sue Timmis, Lisa Lucas, Kibbie Naidoo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorial (Academic Journal)peer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
29 Downloads (Pure)


‘Global inequality is increasingly manifested within territorial proximity’ (Horner et al. 2018, 29) and ‘intra-national inequalities’ are predicted to continue to grow ‘as a share of global inequality’ (ibid, 27). Further, ‘evidence suggests that wide disparities between urban and rural populations exist’ (Graetz et al. 2018, 48). The articles in this Special Issue of Compare interrogate these disparities by focusing on how rurality mediates access to higher education and to employment. They are positioned within a complex global environment in which inequalities persist, not only between the global South and global North, but also intra-nationally between urban and rural populations. We use the terms global South and global North advisedly, aware of their unhelpful or inadequate binary categories (Skupien and Ruffin 2020), cautious that they may reinforce a ‘centre/periphery … dichotomy that glosses over the history, exercises of power and global political relations that create and perpetuate those very global divisions’ (Murrey 2019, 64). We do not suggest that countries in the ‘South’ are ‘underdeveloped’ or that they need to be recipients of the ‘North’s’ wisdom, (Sabzalieva, Martinez, and Sá 2020), rather we favour Dados and Connell (2012, 13) who contend that ‘the term Global South … references an entire history of colonialism, neo-imperialism, and differential economic and social change through which large inequalities in living standard, life expectancy, and access to resources are maintained’. Many of these inequalities are visible in all the articles in this Issue, irrespective of context. To justify further our use of global South and global North, the former is the term used by those such as de Sousa Santos (2014) to refer to nations whose knowledges have been subjected to epistemicide. Epistemicide is a core dimension of Naidoo et al’s article and, moreover, central to current debates about the necessity to embrace a plurality of knowledges, myriad ways of understanding the world and decolonial approaches to higher education and to the curriculum; all are themes in this Issue, together with the lack of recognition of rural knowledges. We use, therefore, the terms global South and North in our editorial, even though we are ‘critical of totalising epistemologies that conceal significant differences and particularities in experiences’ (Murrey 2019, 65). The articles in this Special Issue reveal the inequalities in access to resources in rural contexts, how economic and social change is differentiated between rural and urban and how colonialism continues to deny or marginalise particular knowledges. In assembling it, we have been mindful to include research from global South and North in order to illustrate that the complexities associated with rural contexts are not confined to particular countries although, because of greater inequalities in many ‘southern’ contexts, the distinctions between rural and urban may be starker there.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)929-942
Number of pages13
JournalCompare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2020

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