The ‘academic orthodoxy’ (Brookfield 1986) of student engagement is questioned by Zepke, who suggests that it supports ‘a neoliberal ideology’ (2014: 698). In reply, Trowler argues that Zepke fails to explain the mechanisms linking neoliberalism to the concepts and practices of student engagement (2015: 336). In this article, I respond to the Zepke-Trowler debate with an analysis of student engagement policies that illuminates the role of discourse as one mechanism linking neoliberal values with practices of student engagement. Through a corpus-based Critical Discourse Analysis, I demonstrate a persistent and alarming omission of human labour from university policy texts. Instead, the engagements of students and staff are attributed to technology, documents and frameworks. Student engagement is discussed as a commodity to be embedded and marketed back to students in a way that yields an ‘exchange value’ (Marx 1867) for universities.
Sarah Hayes is a Senior Lecturer and Programme Director for the PG Diploma and Masters in Education in the Centre for Learning, Innovation and Professional Practice at Aston University in the U.K. Sarah previously taught Sociology and is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Her recent publications include Quantitative Research Methods for Linguists:A Questions and Answers Approach for Students (with T. Grant, U. Clark, G. Reershemius, D. Pollard and G. Plappert) and Innovative Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (with J. Branch, A Hørsted and C. Nygaard). E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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