Commodification and the official discourse of higher education.

Bravenboer, Darryll (2009) Commodification and the official discourse of higher education. PhD thesis, Institute of Education, University of London.

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The commodification of higher education has been described, within the philosophical and
sociological literature, in opposition to, or in alliance with principled perspectives about the nature,
purpose or value of ‘higher education’: for example, as that which is intrinsically valuable, a social
good, a democratic requirement or an individual entitlement. This thesis argues that such
approaches are relatively unproductive in providing descriptions that can inform higher education
practice. Rather, it is argued, they largely seem to operate to reproduce the principled perspectives
with which they are aligned or opposed. The thesis examines the following question:
How do official texts that describe higher education, operate to (re)produce and/or resist the idea
of its commodification?
The methodology employed to examine this question, locates ‘official’ texts as empirical objects for
analysis. The analysis proceeds by identifying and organising oppositions and alliances within these
texts, to produce a constructive description of how each text is operating within the higher education
field. Specific descriptions of higher education within official texts are analysed in relation to
constructed theoretical spaces that describe modes of discursive action, including the commodified
The method provides a means of describing commodification as a discursive modality rather than as
a representation of use-value/exchange-value or market/non-market type oppositions. This approach
is productive in describing the ways that official texts operate to regulate higher education practice
without reproducing a principled perspective. Despite some explicit references to the economic or
commodity value of higher education, official texts tend to use such descriptions to promote the
introduction or maintenance of bureaucratic and regulatory systems that actually stand in opposition
to the commodified mode. This conclusion is in contrast with the idea that official descriptions of
higher education are operating to promote increasing commodification.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords (uncontrolled): Commodification; higher education; higher education policy; official discourse
Research Areas: A. > Institute for Work Based Learning
Item ID: 6406
Useful Links:
Depositing User: Darryll Bravenboer
Date Deposited: 18 Aug 2010 08:09
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2016 14:20

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