The Labour of Words in Higher Education

Is it Time to Reoccupy Policy?

As Higher Education has come to be valued for its direct contribution to the global economy, university policy discourse has reinforced this rationale. In The Labour of Words in Higher Education: Is it Time to Reoccupy Policy? two globes are depicted. One is a beautiful, but complete artefact, that markets a UK university. The second sits on a European city street and is continually inscribed with the markings of passers-by. A distinction is drawn between the rhetoric of university McPolicy, as a discourse that appears to no longer require input from humans, and a more authentic approach to writing policy, that acknowledges the academic labour of staff and students, in effecting change.

Inspired by the work of George Ritzer on the McDonaldisation of Society, the term McPolicy is adopted by the author, to describe a rational method of writing policy, now widespread across UK universities. Recent strategies on ‘the student experience’, ‘technology enhanced learning’, ‘student engagement’ and ‘employability’ are explored through a corpus-based Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA). Findings are humourously compared to the marketing of consumer goods, where commodities like cars are invested with human qualities, such as ‘ambition’. Similarly, McPolicy credits non-human strategies, technologies and a range of socially constructed buzz phrases, with the human qualities and labour activities that would normally be enacted by staff and students.

This book is written for anyone with an interest in the future of universities. It concludes with suggestions of ways we might all reoccupy McPolicy.

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Biographical Note
Sarah Hayes, Ph.D., is a Professor of Higher Education Policy at University of Wolverhampton. Sarah has published articles in a variety of journals and is an Associate Editor for the journal Postdigital Science and Education.
Readership
Anyone interested in making connections across global, political developments in Higher Education, the academic labour of staff and students and the written discourse of both university policy and consumer culture.
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