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2015 | 4(48) | 106-118

Article title


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Performing Student Self-government Organizations in Canada the Socio-political Function

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This article has two major objectives: to describe the structure of the student movement in Canada and the formal role of the students in higher education governance, and to describe and analyze the «Maple Spring», the dramatic mobilization of the students in opposition to proposed tuition fee increased in Quebec that eventually led to a provincial election and the fall of the government. Based on an analysis of the documents, news reports, and a small number of interviews with the student leaders, the author will analyze what became the largest student protest movement in Canadian history. We will begin by conceptualizing the student organizations as political pressure groups, and then reviewing the major structural characteristics of Canadian student organizations. We will then turn to the special case of the student protests in Quebec in 2012. University-level student organizations have considerable organizational capacity (stable membership, mandatory fees, paid staff) and can be viewed as institutionalized pressure groups working within university policy networks. There are also student pressure groups functioning at the provincial and federal levels of the authority. Then we will identify activity strategies of the students’ organizations, analyze their main functions, and describe the main categories of university clubs and organizations. At the end we will give a description of the «Maple Spring» – the debate over tuition in Quebec which is not simply about the level of user fees, but rather the issue is embedded in a much broader vision of the role of higher education, and the discourse used by the student movement is based on a set of social-democratic values that resonate with the collective imaginary of Quebec society. Building upon their organizational capacity (membership, resources, paid staff and official recognition), using innovative strategies to maintain media coverage and pressure on the provincial government, and benefiting from circumstantial factors as well as the unique political context of Quebec, the student organizations in the province engaged in a protest have been unique in Canadian history because of its length and size, the magnitude of media attention that it received (in Canada and internationally), and its impact on the Quebec government and the provincial higher education system.



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Publication order reference


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