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The hollowed-out university? A critical analysis of changing institutional and academic norms in UK higher education

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Article numbern/a
Pages (from-to)338-350
Number of pages13
JournalDiscourse (Abingdon): studies in the cultural politics of education
Issue number3
E-pub ahead of print2013

King's Authors


This article argues that UK universities are at risk from a process of ‘hollowing out’ – that is, of becoming institutions with no distinctive social role and no ethical raison d'etre – and that this is a process which undermines the possibilities for meaningful institutional and academic identities. It begins with a condensed, and necessarily partial, review of recent UK higher education policy trends to indicate the historical context and direction of change and to highlight the growing separation of management and academic agendas and the linked rise in gloss and spin compared to academic substance. In the remainder of this article we focus on the normative dimension of these changes and unpack their implications for the nature of the university and of academic work. In so doing, we illustrate the breadth and depth of the threat posed by ‘hollowed-out’ universities, indicate alternative, more positive currents and call for a ‘re-valuation’ of the UK university.

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