We are concerned that our research investigates and contributes to human development which enables all persons to have quality of life. Human development recognises: (1) a plurality of values, not only the values of economic utility; (2) a human-wide concern and solidarity – the field of reference is all humans, wherever in the world, and in particular all those affected by one’s actions; (3) recognises the normality and centrality of interconnections among people. It rests on a broad and plural conception of human well-being, and sees development as the promotion and advance of well-being. The UNDP’s standard definition of the core dimensions of human development includes: empowerment, meaning the expansion of capabilities (ability to attain valued ends), expansion of valued functions (attained valued ends), and participation (sharing in specifying priorities); equity in distribution of basic capabilities, and, security and sustainability of people’s valued attainments and opportunities.

The capabilities approach is a theoretical and empirical operationalisation of human development. The approach has been developed by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum; in our research we apply the ideas to (higher) education practice, policy, and evaluation. According to this normative approach to human well-being and agency, (higher) education ought to enable the full range of opportunities (capabilities) and achievements (functionings, that which we have reason to value being and doing) for diverse students, while also contributing to commitments to the good of others. As such it is an inclusive, social justice friendly approach, concerned with equity in higher education and reducing inequalities in society through the actions of graduates. By drawing on a theoretical approach in the development ethics field rather than only from the (higher) education literature, the approach further seeks to align development with (higher) education in ways which might benefit both fields.

For further information on human development and the capability approach visit -
http://www.hd-ca.org and http://www.learninghd.org

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