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Representing 30 years of higher education change: UK universities and the Times Higher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Educational Administration and History
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2012

King's Authors


This paper argues that the Times Higher provides a powerful tool for understanding the changing character of UK higher education (HE) and can usefully be seen as representative, and in some ways constitutive, of that changing character. Drawing on an analysis of a sample of stories from the Times Higher, it documents the changing policy climate of UK HE from 1979 to 2010. It offers a broadly chronological account of themes that have emerged as prominent at different times during this period, pointing, inter alia, to fears about threats to the humanities, the rise of various forms of instrumentalism and the incorporation of HE institutions and agencies into a common mindset characterised by a preoccupation with marketing and corporate success. The last of these is embodied in the changing format of the newspaper itself and in its own activities as a key player in the HE sector, notably as a sponsor of university rankings and awards. Whilst being sensitive to countervailing tendencies, the authors suggest that the growing instrumentalisation of HE and related cultural shifts represent a changed ‘structure of feeling’ in UK HE. They conclude that the university rankings, awards and other image commodities that are a key part of this changed structure of feeling now play such a substantial role in the cultural life of universities that the norms of both rationality and professional ethics which tended to prevail in deliberations about university strategy 30 years ago may no longer be taken for granted.

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