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Opening up Higher Education against the policy backdrop of the 'knowledge economy': navigating the conflicting discourses

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Presentation at ALTC Conference in Liverpool, 5 September 2017

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Opening up Higher Education against the policy backdrop of the 'knowledge economy': navigating the conflicting discourses

  1. 1. Opening up Higher Education against the policy backdrop of the ‘knowledge economy’: navigating the conflicting discourses By Gabi Witthaus Presentation at ALT-C Conference Liverpool University, 5 September 2017
  2. 2. Research questions 1. To what extent does the Discourse of groups arguing for a market- driven approach to higher education overlap with, or diverge from, that of groups who are seeking to open up education? 2. What can we deduce from this about how close or how far apart these groups are in terms of their underlying values and assumptions? 3. How are HEIs navigating the Discourses to both comply with market-economy type regulations and open up education? https://padlet.com/witthaus/altc
  3. 3. Big ‘D’ Discourse Discourses as distinctive ways of speaking and listening, or writing and reading, coupled with distinctive ways of acting in the world ‘in the service of enacting specific socially recognizable identities’ (Gee, 2014, p.183). https://padlet.com/witthaus/altc
  4. 4. Marketization of HE and critical discourse analysis - history • Staff members of HEIs felt helpless to resist the ‘distasteful, highly promotional, highly marketized’ new discursive practices in HE at the time (Fairclough, 1993, p.159). • He advocated use of Critical Discourse Analysis in the struggle to develop a new ‘language’ as a key means of building resistance. https://padlet.com/witthaus/altc
  5. 5. Captured by the discourse (Trowler, 2001) Traditionalism Social reconstructionism Progressivism Managerialism https://padlet.com/witthaus/altc
  6. 6. Emergence of discourse of open education (Bozkurt et al., 2015) Traditionalism Social reconstructionism Progressivism Managerialism Open education https://padlet.com/witthaus/altc
  7. 7. A tale of two texts • Success as a knowledge economy: teaching excellence, social mobility and student choice (BIS, 2016) - the White Paper explaining the recently introduced Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) for England [the White Paper] • Opening up Education: a Support Framework for Higher Education Institutions (Inamorato Dos Santos, Punie & Muñoz, 2016) - an advisory report by the European Union’s Joint Research Centre aimed at governments and HEIs in Europe [the OuE Framework] https://padlet.com/witthaus/altc
  8. 8. https://padlet.com/witthaus/altc
  9. 9. Top 100 of 34,000 words
  10. 10. Caveat: words with insignificant word counts • success • knowledge • excellence • social • mobility
  11. 11. Top 100 of 22,000 words
  12. 12. Ideational, interpersonal, textual features • Ideational: ‘the representation and signification of the world and experience’ • Interpersonal: ‘the constitution (establishment, negotiation, reproduction’) of identities of participants and social and personal relationships between them’ • Textual: the distribution of given versus new and foregrounded versus backgrounded information (Fairclough, 1993) https://padlet.com/witthaus/altc
  13. 13. Ideational features: HE as a commercial transaction ‘Competition between providers in any market incentivises them to raise their game, offering consumers a greater choice of more innovative and better quality products and services at lower cost’ (White Paper, 2016, p.8) https://padlet.com/witthaus/altc
  14. 14. Ideational features: open education as a universal good ‘In the OpenEdu project, open education is seen as a way of carrying out education, often using digital technologies. Its aim is to widen access and participation to everyone by removing barriers and making learning accessible, abundant, and customisable for all. It offers multiple ways of teaching and learning, building and sharing knowledge. It also provides a variety of access routes to formal and non-formal education, and connects the two’ (OuE Framework, 2016, p. 5). https://padlet.com/witthaus/altc
  15. 15. A social construct with superhero properties Hidden/ assumed: • human actors with particular skills, acting with intent • technologies/ resources • institutional and political contexts Openness ‘has become a highly charged and politicised term…’ which ‘has acquired a sheen of naturalised common sense and legitimacy, and formed what seems to be a post-political space of apparent consensus’ (Bayne et al., 2015, p. 247). https://padlet.com/witthaus/altc
  16. 16. Interpersonal features: cuddly ‘we’ ‘Our universities have a paramount place in an economy driven by knowledge and ideas. They generate the know-how and skills that fuel our growth and provide the basis for our nation’s intellectual and cultural success. Higher Education in the UK enjoys a world-class reputation, with globally renowned teaching and cutting-edge research and innovation. We have maintained our position as a world leader, with continuing success in education exports in the face of increasing international competition. But we must be ready for the challenges of the future’ (White Paper, 2016, p.7). https://padlet.com/witthaus/altc
  17. 17. Interpersonal features: authoritative ‘we’ ‘… (I)n 2010, we took steps to enable England’s higher education system to adjust to these new demands. In 2012, 13 years after tuition fees were first introduced, we took the decision to put higher education funding onto a more sustainable footing…’ (White Paper, p.8) https://padlet.com/witthaus/altc
  18. 18. Interpersonal features: reasonable ‘we’ vs soon-to-be-extinct ‘they’ ‘But we must accept that there may be some providers who do not rise to the challenge, and who therefore need or choose to close some or all of their courses, or to exit the market completely. The possibility of exit is a natural part of a healthy, competitive, well-functioning market…’ (White Paper, p.10) https://padlet.com/witthaus/altc
  19. 19. Interpersonal features: personification of institutions • ‘If a university were to decide...’ (OuE Framework, p. 8) • ‘institutions should consider…’ (Ibid., p. 30) • ‘Europe should act now providing the right policy framework and a stimulus to introduce innovative learning and teaching practices in schools, universities, vocational education and training’ (Ibid., p. 30). https://padlet.com/witthaus/altc
  20. 20. Textual features: noticeable by their absence • Teaching excellence – what is it? • Academics mentioned three times in total… • The White Paper cautions against allowing the development of a ‘crafty mutually convenient disengagement contract among distracted academics and instrumentalist students’ (White Paper, p.12), as has reportedly been seen in the American higher education system. https://padlet.com/witthaus/altc
  21. 21. Textual features: freedoms in principle (Lane, 2016) and false binaries (Oliver, 2015) ‘Through open education each and every individual, at every stage in their lives and career development, can have appropriate and meaningful educational opportunities available to them. These include access to content, courses, support, assessment and certification in ways that are flexible, and accommodate diverse needs. Barriers, as regards for example entry or cost, are reduced or eliminated (OuE Framework, p.5) https://padlet.com/witthaus/altc
  22. 22. Some common high-frequency words White Paper Opening up Education Framework The market needs to be opened up (to new providers) Education needs to be opened up (to more, and more diverse, learners) New entrants (i.e. institutions) need access to the market Learners need greater access to education Consumers (students) primarily need protection from institutions that may fail them, as well as support to succeed Learners (students) need support to succeed Competition (between institutions) is essential to ensuring high quality delivery of HE Collaboration (between institutions) is essential to ensuring high quality delivery of HE - building bridges between informal, non-formal and formal learning. Widening participation means bringing more young people into HE Widening participation means bringing more people into lifelong learning Consumers (students) require information about the content of courses - in order to be able to choose the ‘best’ institution to enrol at Learners (students) should have access to openly-licensed content (materials and resources for learning, including research outputs) Recognition of new HE providers will help to stimulate competition (between institutions) in the sector Recognition of prior learning is an essential element in opening up HE to all High quality research as an indicator of the reputation and competitiveness of an institution Openly published research as a way of removing barriers to access to knowledge, and broadening participation in research https://padlet.com/witthaus/altc
  23. 23. Research questions 1 & 2 1. To what extent does the Discourse of groups arguing for a market- driven approach to higher education overlap with, or diverge from, that of groups who are seeking to open up education? 2. What can we deduce from this about how close or how far apart these groups are in terms of their underlying values and assumptions? https://padlet.com/witthaus/altc
  24. 24. Image by Sandra Huskinson
  25. 25. Research question 3 (on Padlet) 3. How are HEIs navigating the Discourses to both comply with market- economy type regulations and open up education? https://padlet.com/witthaus/altc
  26. 26. References Bayne, S., Knox, J., and Ross, J., 2015. Open education: the need for a critical approach. Learning, Media and Technology, 40(3), pp.247–250. Bozkurt, A., AkgunOzbek, E., Yilmazel, S., Erdogdu, E., Ucar, H., Guler, E., Sezgin, S., Karadeniz, A., Sen-Ersoy, N., Goksel- Canbek, N., Dincer, G.D., Ari, S., and Aydin, C.H., 2015. Trends in Distance Education Research: A Content Analysis of Journals 2009-2013. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 16(1). Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS). 2016. Success as a knowledge economy: teaching excellence, social mobility and student choice. London: Department for Business, Innovation & Skills. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/523546/bis-16-265-success-as-a-knowledge- economy-web.pdf Fairclough, N., 1993. Critical Discourse Analysis and the Marketization of Public Discourse: The Universities. Discourse & Society, 4(2), pp.133–168. Gee, J.P. 2014. How to do Discourse Analysis: A Toolkit 2nd edition, Abingdon: Routledge. Inamorato Dos Santos, A., Punie, Y., & Muñoz, J. C. 2016. Opening up Education: a Support Framework for Higher Education Institutions. Seville: Joint Research Centre, European Union. https://doi.org/10.2791/293408 Lane, A., 2016. Emancipation through open education: rhetoric or reality? In: P. Blessinger & T. Bliss, eds. Open Education: International Perspectives in Higher Education. Open Book Publishers. McLean, M. & Ashwin, P. 2017. The Quality of Learning, Teaching and Curriculum. In New Languages and Landscapes of Higher Education. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Oliver, M., 2015. From openness to permeability: reframing open education in terms of positive liberty in the enactment of academic practices. Learning, Media and Technology, 40(3), pp.365–384. Trowler, P., 2001. Captured by discourse? The socially constitutive power of higher education discourse in the UK. Organization, 8(2), pp.183–201.
  27. 27. Thank you! Gabi Witthaus @twitthaus g.witthaus@lancaster.ac.uk

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