The Role of Internships in Higher Education in North America
The neoliberalization of education in North America is a widely discussed topic within and outside of geography. Though much research has been undertaken on, for example, the rise of employability and other metrics in higher education, and some research has examined internships, little critical literature has examined the role of cooperative (coop) education programs: a specific kind of internship-based undergraduate program in which students alternate between school and paid work terms throughout their degrees. I explore these themes through an analysis of interviews with students who are enrolled in or recently completed coop degrees at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. I examine coop, a key element of the neoliberalization of education in North America, to argue (1) that coop degree programs are invested in the production of mobile and flexible subjects convenient to an increasingly globalized labor market and (2) that students display critical ambivalence toward coop as resistant to it while also finding value in it in general terms. This perceived value should be contextualized alongside the broader structural forces that students are faced with that include rising tuition fees, dwindling social spending, (until recently) stagnant real-wage growth, and the continued dependency on the market for social reproduction.
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