Ulpukka Isopahkala-Bouret

University of Helsinki, Institute of Behavourial Sciences

Helsinki, Finland

Ulpukka Isophkala-Bouret


What is the matter with ageing and expertise? Narrative inquiry into the experiences of older workers who acquire Master's degrees in their fifties.


My new research project (The FLARE 2 initiative) is focusing on experiences of older adults in the context of higher education as well as in the context of working life. The purpose is to theorize how age, ageing, and expertise are intertwined. I will investigate in-depth why experienced professionals enrol to degree-oriented university programs at later life, and what kinds of benefits the new degree is expected to bring to their remaining careers. I am interested in changes in self and social status (due to a higher education degree), and how age and gender intersect and relate to social constructions of expertise. So, in this study, I am approaching the question of graduation at older age from the point of view of expertise, agency and difference. This study continues my earlier research interest in critical inspection of what expertise is and who are legitimate or able to define themselves as experts (c.f. Isopahkala-Bouret 2005).

The significance of the study is in providing new interpretation of the relation between ageing and expertise. It refines our current understanding of the aspirations and experiences of those older workers who compete for the expert positions in working life. Particularly it clarifies the impact of a higher academic degree for the opportunities to exercise agency in such positions. The results of this study will benefit the future of multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary ageing research by bringing in a new research topic and by strengthening the focus on the fields of ageing and education (educational gerontology) and ageing at work. This study will also provide new knowledge that benefits the policies of lifelong learning and active aging, as well as the development of adult education in higher education sector and the development of older workers in workplaces.

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