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Manufacturing
“The New Academic” via
writing advice
or - being careful what we wish for?
Pat Thomson
The University of Nottingham
QPR conference, April 2016
Doctoral writing support can be seen as a largely unregulated market.
This is congruent with (1) the shift of higher education to a commodity and
(2) more general political changes.
This positions the doctoral researcher as a ‘consumer’ – whether canny or
naïve – and the issue of quality as either external or self-designed regulation,
or as ‘consumer advice’.
The proliferation of doctoral writing support can be seen as requiring the
doctoral researcher to become highly reflexive about everyday choices. This
is congruent with a view of a risk/reflexively modern society.
The doctoral researcher must decide on quality - whose advice to follow,
which people are trustworthy. The doctoral researcher becomes their own
actuary, a calculating self.
The provision of writing advice draws attention to the importance of
production of texts of various types and quality. This positions the
doctoral researcher as performative.
Performativity is a hallmark of contemporary universities and
workplaces more generally. Writing advice supports the production
of the performative worker - regardless of its quality?
• The provision of writing (and other) support positions the doctoral
researcher as the one who reads for quality and manages their
writing/the doctorate – the self disciplining academic?
The proliferation of writing support advice of variably quality
encourages the doctoral researchers and early career academic to get
into the game themselves – forming entrepreneurial subjects?
• Concerns about quality of doctoral writing cannot be divorced from
the changes in higher education - the shift to highly performative,
self-managing academic subjects working in increasingly
instrumentalised institutions.
• Nor can it be seen as separate from changes in wider society.
• Without falling into a counsel of despair, what do we do, can we do,
about the uber writing situation?

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Uberisation of writing symposium, QPR April 2016

  • 1. Manufacturing “The New Academic” via writing advice or - being careful what we wish for? Pat Thomson The University of Nottingham QPR conference, April 2016
  • 2. Doctoral writing support can be seen as a largely unregulated market. This is congruent with (1) the shift of higher education to a commodity and (2) more general political changes. This positions the doctoral researcher as a ‘consumer’ – whether canny or naïve – and the issue of quality as either external or self-designed regulation, or as ‘consumer advice’.
  • 3. The proliferation of doctoral writing support can be seen as requiring the doctoral researcher to become highly reflexive about everyday choices. This is congruent with a view of a risk/reflexively modern society. The doctoral researcher must decide on quality - whose advice to follow, which people are trustworthy. The doctoral researcher becomes their own actuary, a calculating self.
  • 4. The provision of writing advice draws attention to the importance of production of texts of various types and quality. This positions the doctoral researcher as performative. Performativity is a hallmark of contemporary universities and workplaces more generally. Writing advice supports the production of the performative worker - regardless of its quality?
  • 5. • The provision of writing (and other) support positions the doctoral researcher as the one who reads for quality and manages their writing/the doctorate – the self disciplining academic?
  • 6. The proliferation of writing support advice of variably quality encourages the doctoral researchers and early career academic to get into the game themselves – forming entrepreneurial subjects?
  • 7. • Concerns about quality of doctoral writing cannot be divorced from the changes in higher education - the shift to highly performative, self-managing academic subjects working in increasingly instrumentalised institutions. • Nor can it be seen as separate from changes in wider society. • Without falling into a counsel of despair, what do we do, can we do, about the uber writing situation?