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The construction of higher education students in English policy documents

Brooks, Rachel (2017) The construction of higher education students in English policy documents British Journal of Sociology of Education. pp. 1-17.

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This article investigates the ways in which students are constructed in contemporary English higher education policy. First, it contends that, contrary to assumptions made in the academic literature, students are not conceptualised as ‘empowered consumers’; instead their vulnerability is emphasised by both government and unions. Second, it identifies other dominant discourses, namely that of ‘future worker’ and ‘hard-worker’. These articulate with extant debates about both the repositioning of higher education as an economic good, and the use of the ‘hard-working’ trope across other areas of social policy. Third, it shows that differences are drawn between groups of students. Contrasts are drawn, for example, between international students, juxtaposing the ‘brightest and best’ with those who are considered ‘sham’. Finally, it argues that the figure of the ‘vulnerable’ student and ‘thwarted consumer’ feed into broader government narratives about its policy trajectory, legitimising contemporary reforms and excusing the apparent failure of previous policies.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > Department of Sociology
Authors :
Date : 6 December 2017
DOI : 10.1080/01425692.2017.1406339
Copyright Disclaimer : © 2017 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
Uncontrolled Keywords : Higher education; Policy; England; Students; Consumerism
Depositing User : Clive Harris
Date Deposited : 17 Nov 2017 08:18
Last Modified : 16 Jan 2019 19:04

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