Dismantling a culture of marketization? Alternatives to a student-as-consumer orientation in a context of the removal of tuition fees in a marketized society

Sanchez-Campos, Patricio R. (2022) Dismantling a culture of marketization? Alternatives to a student-as-consumer orientation in a context of the removal of tuition fees in a marketized society. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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As market-oriented policies have impacted Higher Education (HE) systems around the world, extant scholarship has suggested that students are represented as instrumental and employment-focused consumers. However, how these reforms shape students’ experiences in HE is still debatable.

This dissertation examines alternative orientations of the student by critically investigating the discourses surrounding the HE student in the neoliberal context of Chile, where HE has been the subject of a controversial policy reform involving the removal of tuition fees (termed Gratuidad in Spanish). The effects of this reform will be understood from the perspective of a market economy and a marketized HE system long disembedded from society.

Methodologically, data were collected from newspaper articles and in-depth interviews with students. Data were analysed deploying Fairclough’s Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) to investigate the functions and effects of media discourses linked to Gratuidad and to identify representations of students. Interviews with state-funded and self-funded students were undertaken to uncover their orientations to their HE experience.

The findings present Gratuidad being contextualized in three main ways: as a hasty, absurd policy; as an obstacle to the attainment of a more equal society; and as a revolution directed at the future of Chilean children. Media representations of students portray them as egocentric, as neglected by the state, and as marionettes of a political party. While the findings confirm a consumerist orientation to HE for some students, others take on alternative guises: as apolitical and poorly informed risk takers, as young people striving to be Someone, and as budding social reformers.

The findings reveal a neoliberal discourse that is still hegemonic both in the media and amongst the students themselves. The hegemony of the market in Chilean society evidences the disembeddedness of the market from society. It also validates the power of the neoliberal ideology rooted in Chile’s broader social practices of the media and HE. Furthermore, the media, as a social system deeply colonized by a market ideology, keeps discursively promoting a culture of marketization in Chilean society. Nevertheless, notions of a change in this social order have emerged. These changes expose Gratuidad as a counter movement to the disembedded market forces and as an opportunity to potentially re-embed the market in society; and students’ discursive practices contesting the neoliberal ideology, challenging the current social practice in HE.

This research contributes to current theories of marketization in HE and on alternative orientations of students, providing different theoretical explanations of their behaviour in HE. It also contributes by exploring students’ constructions in the Global South, an area of scant empirical work. Lastly, this research fosters a debate about the “return of the state” in the public funding of HE and its impact on students’ understanding of the purpose of HE.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Nixon, Elizabeth
Nemkova, Ekaterina
Winklhofer, Heidi
Keywords: Critical Discourse Analysis, Marketization in HE, Media Discourses, Student Orientations
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher education
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > Nottingham University Business School
Item ID: 71542
Depositing User: Sanchez, Patricio
Date Deposited: 26 Jul 2023 12:00
Last Modified: 26 Jul 2023 12:00
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/71542

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