The discourse of the marketisation of higher education : a case study of a post-92 university

Kennedy, Ann Teresa (2019) The discourse of the marketisation of higher education : a case study of a post-92 university. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


This thesis proposes that the discursive practices of marketisation are transforming and degrading the distinctive educational character, meaning and operations of higher education; that the discourse and habitus of higher educations’ constitutive elements are being usurped by an economic ethos and an audit vocabulary. The purpose of the study is to demystify marketisation and explore its implications for the people who work, teach and learn in a post-92 university. An examination of the history of higher education reveals that its nature and purpose have always been closely linked to its funding, but marketisation eschews its traditional nature and purpose and focuses on its funding. It shifts the normative discourse of higher education towards a socio-economic imperative and an audit culture. Marketisation is an epistemological veil for a shape-shifting political neoliberal economic doctrine; an ideology that uses state power to impose market imperatives that serve utilitarian individualism and monetary wealth through the discursive strategies and techniques of New Public Management which reconceptualises higher education in the image of a competitive corporate market.

This study adopts a multi-level, multi-method approach and mobilises Critical Discourse Analysis to explore the proliferation, unintended consequences and implications of marketisation in a single university. There is evidence of dissonance, struggle, contradictory and strained life-worlds as the new logics of marketisation displace, subordinate and co-opt existing traditional logics. The findings suggest that the short-term benefits for those in positions of power are outweighed by the negative implications for academics and students. A narrow focus on employability degrades higher education, eviscerates academic professionalism, and damages the soul and sinew of educated society. The recommendations include a change in discursive behaviour so that over time an alternative discourse may emerge and displace the hegemony of the market imperative.

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