The analysis of marketization within higher education - especially in the Anglo-Saxon countries – has a long history (Bertelsen, 1998; Brown & Carasso, 2013; Mautner, 2005; Molesworth, Nixon, & Scullion, 2009). However, it often focuses on only macro policy trends and not the extent of concrete institutional adaptation to such trends. Thus the prevalence of traditional university models and academic rationales about both universities’ role in society and students’ roles within universities remain largely ignored. Similarly, the variety of adaptations to the marketization discourse and ideology (including the absence of them) in institutional communications for current and prospective students, the ways in which the “desired student” is constructed through university websites, and the ways in which the overall institutional identity is projected all require detailed analysis (not merely an acknowledgement of overall trends).
The impact of market and economic discourses on traditional, academic communicative genres has been studied in relation to a number of different materials. Older studies have focused on the comparison of current and historical university prospectuses (and the language use in such genres) (Askehave, 2007; Fairclough, 1993). More recent studies have focused on website analysis (Hoang & Rojas-Lizana, 2015; Leathwood & Read, 2009; Saichaie, 2011; Zhang & O'Halloran, 2013) and university promotional videos (Gottschall & Saltmarsh, 2016). However, the number of such studies is small and their focus is often quite narrow. The general conclusion of these studies is that there has been a general shift towards increased marketization and the use of corporate branding discourses within university communication materials and genres (websites, prospectuses, videos).
Traditional promotional materials, including older versions of university websites, tend to: (i) emphasise a more traditional view of the university – i.e. understanding it as an institution to integrate and initiate potential new members of the academic community; (ii) present the academic structure of the institution (departments, faculties, faulty members etc.); and (iii) explain the rules to the new members (application regulations etc) (e.g. Fairclough, 1993; Zhang and O’Halloran, 2013). On the other hand, modern type of university promotion is significantly different. There is evidence that a tendency towards marketization and competition for resources and students in many countries has led to the expansion of promotion and marketing departments at universities (Mautner, 2010) Here, the university is understood as a brand, and marketing strategies are adopted that are based on corporate branding principles; practical web-design manuals are even borrowed from the corporate world. University promotional materials often follow a branding approach based on the principle of homogeneity (e.g. the presence of the brand on all web-site subsections) and homogeneous visual identity (e.g. using the same, unique colour, layout, typeface etc.) (Mautner, 2010). Potential students are positioned as having considerable power in relation to their consumer choice and the economic lexis is also widely used (in relation to the university mission and vision, as well in communication with prospective and current students) (Maunter, 2005; Maunter 2010).
The research in this paper presents a comprehensive, comparative analysis of current (2017 versions) of 60 higher education institution websites in 6 European countries (10 websites each in England, Ireland, Germany, Spain, Denmark and Poland). The aim of the research is not just to confirm and describe general trends, but to try to explain the variety of institutional adaptations and differences in relation to these macro trends in the European perspective.
Askehave, I. (2007). The impact of marketization on higher education genres—the international student prospectus as a case in point. Discourse Studies, 9(6), 723-742. Bertelsen, E. (1998). The real transformation: The marketisation of higher education. Social Dynamics, 24(2), 130-158. Brown, R., & Carasso, H. (2013). Everything for sale?: the marketisation of UK higher education: Routledge. Fairclough, N. (1993). Critical discourse analysis and the marketization of public discourse: The universities. Discourse & Society, 4(2), 133-168. Gottschall, K., & Saltmarsh, S. (2016). ‘You're not just learning it, you're living it!’Constructing the ‘good life’in Australian university online promotional videos. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 1-14. Hoang, T. V. Y., & Rojas-Lizana, I. (2015). Promotional discourse in the websites of two Australian universities: A discourse analytic approach. Cogent Education, 2(1), 1011488. Leathwood, C., & Read, B. (2009). A feminised future? Gender and the changing face of higher education: London: SRHE & Open University Press. Mautner, G. (2005). The Entrepreneurial University: A discursive profile of a higher education buzzword. Critical Discourse Studies, 2(2), 95-120. doi:10.1080/17405900500283540 Mautner, G. (2010). Language and the market society: Critical reflections on discourse and dominance: Routledge. Molesworth, M., Nixon, E., & Scullion, R. (2009). Having, being and higher education: The marketisation of the university and the transformation of the student into consumer. Teaching in higher education, 14(3), 277-287. Zhang, Y., & O'Halloran, K. L. (2013). ‘Toward a global knowledge enterprise’: university websites as portals to the ongoing marketization of higher education. Critical Discourse Studies, 10(4), 468-485. doi:10.1080/17405904.2013.813777
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