Through the Looking-Glass: An Exploration of Students' Discourse Within the Managerialised University

Azevedo, Carlos Pedro Rodrigues (2016). Through the Looking-Glass: An Exploration of Students' Discourse Within the Managerialised University. MRes thesis The Open University.



The primary purpose of this study was to develop an in-depth insight into the effects of neoliberalism and managerialism in students’ approach to higher education, namely in their relationships with academics and other students, in their identities, and the way students enact particular practices within contemporary higher education.

As a researcher, I adopted the perspective of social constructionism, and so the study took a qualitative interpretivist approach. The main data collection technique consisted of qualitative one-on-one semi-structured interviews using mainly open-ended questions. Seven participants were interviewed, and the interviews were analysed using Potter and Wetherell’s (1987) approach to discourse analysis, and Erving Goffman’s (1990 [1959]) metaphor of everyday life interactions as dramaturgical performances was used as a theoretical framework for presenting the findings.

The participants’ accounts confirmed that, to an extent, students adopted an instrumental view of higher education as well as neo-liberal discourses to describe their expectations. Although much of the literature on students in the managerialised university has constructed (and reduced) them to ‘consumers’, the findings also revealed how going to university was reported to be more than a standard transaction of consuming. University is seen as a period of transition in their lives when they can be ‘free’ and independent from the parental gaze and one of their top priorities includes socialising and making friends. However, this ‘life experience’ is not free of the paradoxes and ambiguities of modern life.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions