Employing Master Narratives to Theorise the Missing Men in Higher Education : a grounded theory case study in the UAE

Howling, Christine and Trowler, Paul (2022) Employing Master Narratives to Theorise the Missing Men in Higher Education : a grounded theory case study in the UAE. PhD thesis, Centre for Higher Education Research and Evaluation.

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There has been significant international progress in female participation in education with a vast amount of research dedicated to the subject. However, more recently a reverse gender gap has emerged in several areas of the world including West Africa, North America, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, the UK, and the MENA region. In the UAE this reverse gender gap includes female students significantly outnumbering male students at tertiary level. However, quality data on the issue is relatively lacking, especially when compared to the gender gap literature focusing on girls in education, thus the reasons behind the “missing men” are not well understood. Employing a social constructionist grounded theory design and a responsive interviewing technique, this study emerged into three distinct stages using Ras Al Khaimah, a northern emirate in the UAE, as a case study. In Stage 1, the favourable response given by most of the male “no shows” in continuing their studies contradicted the reality wherein only a minority of young men attend tertiary education each year in the UAE. In recognition of my “cultural outsiderness”, in Stage 2 I referred to male and female Emiratis who shared a cultural and historical context with the young men to describe, explain and exemplify the concepts and themes from Stage 1, before returning to the target demographic in Stage 3. Embracing the complexity of the issue, this thesis provides a nuanced understanding of the missing men in the research context while demonstrating the capacity of the theoretical framework of master narratives to incorporate research and theories from different academic fields, meeting the call from several of the cited scholars for a greater integration of scholarly research. In particular, I suggest that master narratives provide a valuable conceptual tool to “undress” patriarchy and open up the discussion on masculinities, facilitating an interdisciplinary growth of theory. The findings suggest that patterns of male participation are affected by a combination of the country’s demographic situation, socioeconomic history, and evolving sociocultural practices. A master narrative framed in terms of autonomy and relatedness, imbued with patriarchy, was seen to be of particular importance in the research context. Adding to the existing body of knowledge on psychological needs, I contend that a need for security is the driving force behind these young men’s autonomy and relatedness seeking behaviours.

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Thesis (PhD)
?? masculinities; master narratives; patriarchy; higher education; gender ??
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26 Apr 2022 08:45
Last Modified:
22 Jul 2024 23:51