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Education: Expectation and the Unexpected

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This paper considers concepts of expectation and responsibility, and how these drive dialogic interactions between tutor and student in an age of marketised Higher Education. In thinking about such interactions in terms of different forms of exchange, the paper considers the philosophy of Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas on dialogic intersubjectivity, and an ethics of responsibility. This enables a richer understanding of the tutorial dialogue in particular, as both teaching and encounter. This has significant implications for education and for the idea of the tutorial as a space for encounter with the other through language. The paper argues that the university tutorial, rather than being considered a place only for the meeting of expectations, might be envisioned as a space for encounter with the unexpected. In considering the nature of the educational encounter in relation to an example from the film adaptation of Alan Bennett’s ‘The History Boys’, the paper concludes that the tutorial opens up the possibility for a mutual encounter with otherness. This positions the tutorial as a space of educational otherness—a Foucauldian heterotopia which rejects the expectation-bound economy of exchange, and which offers instead the possibility of an education marked by an economy of excess.




Fulford, A. (2016). Education: Expectation and the Unexpected. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 35(4), 415–425.

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