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*Please note this seminar will take place in a hybrid way. Indicate in the registration form if you will be attending online or in person; we will confirm the room in the coming weeks.*


For much of the last two decades, higher education has been absent from research and policy priorities in the growing field of education and conflict. This is now changing but within what paradigm and with what purposes?

In this seminar, Dr Helen Murray argues that the newly emerging discourse on ‘Higher Education in Emergencies’ (HEiE) risks being constrained within an economic paradigm that focuses solely on questions of access and human capital, marginalising the political democratic significance of universities in times of conflict and crisis.

In a dialogue with political theory, the seminar follows the history of Lebanon’s only public university over 60 years (1959-2019), through periods of social upheaval, protracted civil war and post-war neoliberal reconstruction. Posing the question ‘what makes a university public’, it draws on narrative interviews with current and former students, faculty and university administrators, alongside extensive newspaper archive work, to trace the evolving and contested meanings of the Lebanese university as a public institution.

Four conditions of ‘publicness’ emerge, including struggles of difference, autonomy, accountability and space/place. The suffix ‘ness’ denotes a spectrum, indicating that the publicness of universities is not fixed but inherently fragile, closely relating to wider struggles of democracy.


Speaker: Helen Murray

Dr Helen Murray is a Lecturer in Education Policy at King’s College London. Prior to this, she was a Research Fellow with the Political Economy of Education Research Network (PEER) at the University of Sussex, following over 10 years working in policy and advocacy roles on issues of education justice, conflict and international development.

Her research interests include critical and historical perspectives on education, with a particular focus on the issues and challenges facing higher education in times of conflict and crisis. Her ESRC-funded PhD research looked at the history of the national university in Lebanon and the relationship between universities, conflict and the public sphere. 

This event was part of the CPPR Lunchtime Seminar series.

At this event

Helen Murray

Lecturer in Education Policy

Event details

Waterloo Bridge Wing, Franklin Wilkins Building
Stamford Street, SE1 9NH