Laddism and Higher Education

Laddism and Higher Education

A one-day SEN symposium discussing masculine behaviours and student culture.

The Student Experience Network of the SRHE is holding a one day symposium on laddism and Higher Education. Its focus is on the intersection of such masculine behaviours with student culture, minorities, lived experience, and the night-time economy, all areas which also inform and shape pedagogical identities. The day has been organised following the NUS’ 2013 report on lad culture in higher education, That’s What She Said and is thus orientated towards asking how the HE sector should respond to research findings and what further research is necessary.

Emerging Themes from That’s What She Said with a discussion on further research and actions

Isabel Young (co-author of report), seconded by Kelly Temple (NUS)

This presentation reports on a research project, funded by the National Union of Students, which sought to explore women students’ experiences of ‘lad culture’ in educational, social and personal spheres. The project consisted of two parts: (1) a thematic literature review covering areas such as gender and education, cultural studies and policy sociology; and (2) in-depth qualitative research using focus groups and semi-structured interviews with a sample of 40 women students, focusing on their experiences of teaching and learning, extra-curricular activities, social life, and sex and relationships. The findings of this research show that although ‘laddism’ is only one of a variety of potential masculinities, there exists at least a significant minority of women students who find ‘lad cultures’ problematic, citing issues such as misogynist ‘banter’, objectification of women and sexual pressure and harassment. This presentation explores some of the key themes to have emerged from the report, including the evolution of ‘laddism’ and its existence as a behaviour; the connection between night economies and the propagation of ‘lad culture’; intersections between gender, race, (dis)ability, sexuality and ‘lad culture’, and more. It will conclude by looking ahead to further research possibilities and actions around the impact of ‘lad culture’ in higher education and more broadly.

Isabel Young has a BA in Sociology and an MA in Gender Studies from the University of Sussex. Her research has explored BAME women’s experiences of anti-Muslim racism, constructions of sexual violence on Facebook ‘banter’ sites, and most recently, the impact of ‘lad culture’ on women students in higher education. She has worked with Survivor’s Network, Woman’s Hour and UK Uncut on the issues of VAWG and the cuts. Isabel currently runs a community programme for migrant mothers as part of the Arbour’s Migrant Women’s Mentoring and Social Inclusion project based in East London.

Kelley Temple is the NUS National Women’s Officer and is based in London. Kelley primarily works on campaigning for the rights of Student Carers, Tackling Lad Culture in Education and tackling women’s underrepresentation through Women in Leadership. Kelley is also a member of the Abortion Rights Executive Committee, a board member of the policy organisation Engender and represents NUS UK on Higher Education Policy at the European Student Union. Previously she was the NUS Scotland Women’s Officer, a Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYP) where she Convened the Education and Lifelong Learning Committee and was also a sabbatical officer at the University of Strathclyde Students’ Association. Kelley is from Glasgow and studied Politics at the University of Strathclyde.


Degrees of Laddishness: Laddism in Higher Education

Prof. Carolyn Jackson and Dr. Stephen Dempster

This paper provides insights into how laddism is understood, perpetuated, legitimated and challenged among undergraduates in two British universities. We explore the perceived benefits of subscribing to laddish masculinities, and also the costs of laddishness for male and female students in both student social life and teaching/learning environments. We discuss the ways that laddishness can be problematic for men as well as women, but argue that viewing laddishness as existing in a continuum of potential masculine subject positionings not only  enables a more sophisticated understanding of laddishness, but also may suggest strategies through which more extreme laddism might be challenged.

Carolyn Jackson is a Professor in the Department of Educational Research at Lancaster University, and Co-Director of the Centre for Social Justice and Wellbeing in Education. She has published widely on gender issues in education. Her books include Lads and Ladettes in School: Gender and a Fear of Failure (2006), and Girls and Education 3-16: Continuing Concerns, New Agendas (2010, co-edited with Carrie Paechter and Emma Renold). She is currently engaged in two projects exploring laddism in higher education.

Dr. Steven Dempster is a Research and Teaching Associate in the Department of Educational Research at Lancaster University and the Dean of one of Lancaster’s undergraduate colleges.  Steve has published a number of papers on laddism in higher education and is currently working on a further project on laddism in HE, an evaluation of enhancement of teaching and learning in Scottish HEIs, and a study of the impact of the Harry Potter franchise on boys’ literacies.

Chanting Students

Dr. Matthew Cheeseman

I began researching and collecting examples of student chanting in 2005 and have found them a stimulating way of thinking about students and their experience of higher education. Far from simple, chants are both verbal forms and performances, full of contradictory meanings and creadings. In this paper I look at how they are received by others and how they operate as expressions of student identity and enactments of ‘lad culture’. Using data collected following an ethnographic methodology, I attempt to situate chanting within larger and no less contradictory performances (such as being a student) and explain its relationship to a language that has become a totemic within the United Kingdom: banter.

Dr. Matthew Cheeseman is a Research and Teaching Associate at the University of Sheffield. He works between English Literature, Folklore, Creative Writing, Music and Education. Alongside Dr. Camille Kandiko, he convenes the Student Experience Network for the SRHE, arranging approximately three symposiums a year. He blogs at

Round table on Students’ Union responses, programmes and strategies alongside thoughts on further research.

Abigail Burman, Sophie van der Ham and Kelly Temple

Abigail Burman is an American undergraduate at the University of Oxford. During her time at university she’s served as her college’s Equal Opportunities Officer, focusing on issues of violence and harassment and helped form the first University-wide campaign against sexual violence. 

Sophie van der Ham completed a BA in English literature and linguistics at the University of Amsterdam & Edinburgh. She came to the University of Sussex to study an MA in Gender Studies and co-chaired the Women’s Group on campus. She was elected welfare officer at the University of Sussex Students’ Union and is carrying on the zero tolerance to sexual harassment and discrimination campaign that was started by the previous welfare officer. The campaign has been mentioned by The Guardian and aims to work constructively with the University in introducing a sexual violence policy. 

The day will conclude with a general discussion, with the option to splinter into smaller groups in order to discuss research strands.


Network: Student Experience
Date(s): Friday, 07 February 2014
Times: 10.30 – 16.30
Signup Deadline: Wednesday, 05 February 2014
Location: 73 Collier Street, London N1 9BE
Lunch Provided: Yes
Spaces Left: Places available
Prices: Members: Free, Guests: £45.00

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