Ganapathy, Sasikal; Sasikala, Visalakshy (2014). 'RISK AND CAPABILITIES – A NARRATIVE STUDY OF STUDENTS AFTER HIGHER EDUCATION' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.

Inspired by 'A Study Of Risk And Capability Expansion Among Mature Students In Higher Education', by Veronica Anne Kelly, this paper puts forward a strong argument for increased participation of students in higher education from Nancy Frazer's social justice perspective. Apart from the social, democratic and individual economic benefits higher education entails, the students face multiple challenges which makes them question their ability to enjoy real freedoms and make genuine choices that they value most.  There is a growing emphasis on the need for higher education to actively participate in economic, social and democratic life; but, the real risk and the perception of risk (economic, social and personal) tops the list of challenges that the students face. For example, a higher degree may increase the likelihood of getting a job, but their personal and social relationships may have changed. This implies that the status of higher education does not automatically provided straight forward benefits for all, but it is mediated by individual biographies and circumstances.

The data forms the narrative of fifteen students who have finished their higher education and are looking forward to employment opportunities in Kerala, the southern most state in India; (unemployment in Kerala is so high that the demographic advantage that the state enjoys might be replaced by demographic liability).  This study uses the capability approach of Sen(1995) and Nussbaum(2000) as a conceptual framework which allows the focus of access to education to shift from an economic argument only to one that concerns individual well being.  This benefits social capital and culture of a community, while enhancing personal growth, development and freedom, of the individual.

Choosing to go for higher education, involves facing a number of risks to the individual in terms of personal and social identity, social and economic inclusion/ exclusion as well as financial and  institutional factors, all of which may help or hinder the student participation in higher education. This narration of the potential expansion of capabilities and risks that students face in higher education is based on a unique set of individual experiences.

In India, national strategies and policies for higher education 2014, considers access, equity and inclusion as the three pillars for development of human capital. For understanding the needs and concerns of the students who enrol for higher education this research proposes that higher education strategy and policy needs to refocus and develop a bottom up approach, firstly addressing the needs of the individual. For this, it is imperative that educational research includes the concepts like risk and capability expansion, among others.

Key words: Social justice, Capability Approach, Risk, Access, Equity, Inclusion.