This article examines what it means to be an academic in the knowledge economy, using auto-ethnographic writing or storytelling as its starting point. Although academic mobility has been researched for about a decade, deep listening and deep reading in the context of ethnography have not been utilised in analysing what it means to move in this global space. To conduct this exercise, fellows from the European Union-funded Universities in the Knowledge Economy project who were all mobile academics, were invited to participate in ethnographic writing workshops and explore the personal, subjective elements of narrating their experiences of being mobile and being migrants. I aim to not only present the narratives of colleagues who populate the global knowledge economy but also analyse them and ask if certain ideal forms of narrative habitus support academic mobility.
Auto-ethnographic writing in the knowledge economy
Quis custodiet ipsos consumptores?
Most undergraduates’ main, hands-on involvement in student engagement is completing satisfaction surveys, such as the U.K. National Student Survey (NSS), whose findings make significant contributions to university policy formation. It is therefore important that these surveys produce reliable and valid data, but previous and current NSS versions fail to do this. This article compares the U.K.’s model of ‘satisfaction’ with that of the U.S. National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). Whereas the NSS treats the student as a passive consumer, the NSSE treats the student as an active participant who shares personal liability for some of the educational outcomes. The NSSE’s greater use of factual rather than opinion questions, allowance for variation in types of students and student effort, and wider interpretation of ‘student engagement’ are seen as more fit for purpose and less influenced by the ideologies of neoliberalism and managerial control.
Constructing and practising student engagement in changing institutional cultures
Lisa Garforth and Anselma Gallinat
This introduction sets the theoretical and historical context for this special issue on student engagement. Drawing on literatures about audit culture, governance and change in higher education institutions, and theories of practice, institutions and organisation, it sheds light on the current era of English higher education. The Browne Review led to the withdrawal in 2010 of the majority of the government teaching grant for English universities, and it tripled tuition fees in 2012. In the post-Browne era, ‘engagement’ emerged as an organising concept linked in multiple ways to other objects and discourses, in particular university league tables and measures of student satisfaction; and it was swiftly and often unreflexively translated into visions for developing learning and teaching. This special issue focuses on this specific shift in policy and discourse, exploring institutional change and everyday experience, and reflecting on the power and limits of policies.
Do we need to reoccupy student engagement policy?
The ‘academic orthodoxy’ () 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’ () for universities.
Anthropological reflections on ‘Project 2012’ and The Offer
The prospect of the increase in tuition fees in England from 2012 pulled learning and teaching into the limelight as universities sought to safeguard student recruitment and league table positions in an envisioned new era of increased market competition. As each institution sought to market itself to potential students with a specific learning and teaching ‘offer’, local subject areas faced increasing demands for quality monitoring as well as a host of initiatives and changes to their existing provision. The acceleration of change brought to the fore structures and dynamics that are usually difficult to detect in the routines of everyday life. This article focuses on one U.K. university and explores how the government for accelerated change aimed to reshape learning and teaching practices in preparation for the new times, but in fact served to undermine the visions that had fuelled this change.
In the U.K., ‘student engagement’, and the related ‘student experience’, are increasingly measured, interpreted and then marketed to students as a basis on which to choose the ‘best’ place for their higher education. This article summarises and reflects on presentations from five panel members at a conference on their experience of university life after that choice had been made. The panel included non-traditional students who embodied some of the characteristics (such as age, social class and ethnicity) that have become performance indicators in relation to widening participation and engagement in higher education. This article captures how students themselves understand a concept that occupies such a prominent, if contested, position in contemporary higher education. This analysis invites one to take a closer look at the identity work necessary for students to thrive (and for some just to survive) at university against a backdrop that tends to homogenise both ‘experience’ and ‘student’.
The social construction of student activists and the limits of student engagement
This article explores the limits of student engagement in higher education in the United Kingdom through the social construction of student activists within media discourses. It scrutinises the impact of dominant neoliberal discourses on the notion of student engagement, constructing certain students as legitimately engaged whilst infantilising and criminalising those who participate in protest. Exploring media coverage of and commentary on students engaged in activism, from the 2010 protests against university fee increases and from more recent activism in 2016, the article draws upon Sara Willful Subjects and Imogen Revolting Subjects to examine critically the ways in which some powerful discourses control and limit which activities, practices and voices can be recognised as legitimate forms of student engagement.
Penny Welch and Susan Wright
A pedagogical guide to the confederate flag in post-race America
Cameron D. Lippard
The Confederate flag has been a hotly debated symbol of heritage or hate in the United States. In 2015, 54 per cent of Americans polled saw the flag as a symbol of ‘Southern pride’ whereas 34 per cent saw it as racist. However, 27 per cent of Whites compared to 69 per cent of Blacks saw the flag as racist. In this article, I suggest how instructors can better explain this controversial topic within an America society that is ‘post-race’. First, I describe an opening activity to get students thinking about symbolism through flags. Next, I present a lecture that debunks myths about the flag’s meanings by presenting its factual history. Finally, I describe an open debate activity to complete the discussion and comprehension of the confederate flag. Student responses suggest that these lesson plans lead to a better understanding of its symbolism and its relationship to the continuing significance of racism in the U.S.
Diversity, writing and collective learning in an international Master’s programme
Nana Clemensen and Lars Holm
This article contributes to the continuing discussion about academic literacy in international higher education. Approaching international study programmes as temporary educational contact zones, marked by a broad diversity in students’ educational and discursive experiences, we examine the negotiation and relocalisation of academic literacy among students of the international master’s programme, Anthropology of Education and Globalisation (AEG), University of Aarhus, Denmark. The article draws on an understanding of academic literacy as a local practice situated in the social and institutional contexts in which it appears. Based on qualitative interviews with eleven AEG-students, we analyse students’ individual experiences of, and perspectives on, the academic literacy practices of this study programme. Our findings reveal contradictory understandings of internationalism and indicate a learning potential for students in allowing a more linguistically and discursively diverse dialogue on knowledge production in academia.