Constructing the 'value' of HE: the performative use of 'equivalence' in the neoliberal university

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract

Abstract

This paper examines the performative use of ‘equivalence’ in constructing the ‘value’ of education. “As education is ever more treated as a commodity, its quantitative equivalence, how it is measured and exchanged, becomes its defining feature” (Brancaleone & O’Brien 2011). In the neoliberal university, the prioritising of ‘employability’ as key purpose reinforces both the function of education as producer of labour power and its commodification as a positional good whose value is, at least in part, a function of its ‘sign’ value. The ‘value’ of education is reduced to the access it gives to earnings through different combinations of positionality and labour power. We show how, in the discourse of ‘equivalence’ in HE, learning and experience are converted into academic credit by means of technologies such as modularisation and learning outcomes through which certain experience acquires exchange value in academia and ultimately employment. The marketization of education requires differentiation of provision but the “equal but different” discourse of equivalence rests on claims of equality between different provision which serve to obfuscate distinctiveness and inherent inequality. ‘Equivalent’ provision may be not just different but, in important respects, unequal. The way in which the neoliberal discourse positions students as ‘consumers’ (making choices, getting their 'money's worth') has been well documented. Here, we draw on Bourdieu’s argument that ‘academic devaluation’ increases the significance of the individual’s social and cultural capital resulting in the value of the graduate’s labour being increasingly linked to their ‘character’. Drawing on a range of texts (HE policy, course documentation and student union websites) we show how students are positioned as engaged in a process of ‘commodification of the self’ and encouraged to attend to the building of their ‘brand’ expressed through their CV in which university, course choices and attainment sit alongside ‘experience’ within a range of ‘brand signifiers’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages0-0
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014
EventCentre for Applied Philosophy Politics and Ethics (CAPPE) 9th Annual, International, Interdisciplinary Conference - Grand Parade University of Brighton, 3-5 September 2014
Duration: 1 Jan 2014 → …

Conference

ConferenceCentre for Applied Philosophy Politics and Ethics (CAPPE) 9th Annual, International, Interdisciplinary Conference
Period1/01/14 → …

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    Edmond, N. (2014). Constructing the 'value' of HE: the performative use of 'equivalence' in the neoliberal university. 0-0. Abstract from Centre for Applied Philosophy Politics and Ethics (CAPPE) 9th Annual, International, Interdisciplinary Conference, .