This paper traces the social processes and social categories codified in the numerical data and inscription devices deployed in Types of University Training (IFUW 1934). This survey was initially compiled by the Committee of Standards of the International Federation of University Women to advise its Council on the requirements for membership in national associations wishing to affiliate. The Committee of Standards surveyed the qualifications of members of national associations of university women (Hunyadi 2016) to determine who “counted” as a “university woman” in a situation where the uneven development of women’s higher education had resulted in the potential for the term “university woman” to be differently interpreted in different countries (Cabanel 2018). Types of University Training sought to provide “a comparative illustration of the types of educational systems” and of programmes that had admitted IFUW members and to illustrate the “variety in the value of [their] degrees” (introduction). The paper argues that while surveys have been associated with the collection of “commanding knowledge” from above (Yeo, 1996), power relations of gender entangled in the social biography of Types of University Training in ways that complicate this designation.
The first section of the paper traces the expansion of the social purpose underpinning Types of University Training expanded from a mechanism to determine membership to a link with the IFUW’s aim to internationalise learning and knowledge, and then to a concern with academic status and quality. This section argues that in a context where women often occupied marginal spaces in the academy the numeric data and visual inscription devices (Turmel 2008) deployed in Types of University Training enabled both the “university woman” and her position in higher education institutions to become visible in ways amenable to international transfer with the potential for (re)deployment in the IFUW’s liberal narratives of “progress”, “excellence” and/or exclusion in reforming the often marginal position of the “university woman”, particularly in relation to research.
The second section explores the social processes through which the IFUW sought to stabilise the “scientific” reliability and validity of the data through which “the university woman” was mapped and classified. It traces methods of data collection, their local, national and transnational flows, the grids of visibility created via numbers, tables, and diagrams and the international glossary of educational terms that the IFUW published to clarify definitions and classifications across different education systems. This section argues that what emerged as numbers and visual inscription devices was the result of dialogue and negotiation and that the “commanding knowledge” of the IFUW that was produced held the potential to legitimise the academic status of IFUW members (one of the IFUW’s aspirations).
The concluding section argues (following (Sobe 2013) that Types of University Training “smoothed out” spaces of international comparative visibility around ethnicity and race and that by excluding institutions like training colleges where many women gained a higher education, Types of University Training created an “alternative above” from the margins that was fractured around gender as well as ethnicity and race.
Joyce Goodman, Visualising from “Above” Or From the Margins? Defining the “University Woman” and Internationalising Knowledge: Types of University Training (IFUW, 1934), presentation delivered online at the ISCHE 42 conference organised by Orebro University Sweden, 16-25 August 2021,