Changing practices, changing values? A Bernsteinian analysis of knowledge production and knowledge exchange in two UK universities.

Brenda Little, Andrea Abbas, Mala Singh

Research output: Chapter or section in a book/report/conference proceedingChapter or section


This chapter analyses data selected from case study research in two UK universities which are part of a larger multi-country project on higher education and knowledge societies. It focuses on three departments\research centres from each of the two universities. It explores the extent to which academics (including those managing universities and research centres) have embraced the ideas, activities and values associated with the growth of a knowledge society and correspondingly with a knowledge economy. Discourses about knowledge societies suggest that globally universities have become ‘engines’ of change whose knowledge products are powering economic growth and transforming knowledge societies (Välimaa & Hoffman, 2008); yet issues of social justice often seem to be downplayed in such discourses. Further, concern with exactly what type of change the knowledge generated within universities is contributing to has led researchers to question what values and whose interests are guiding it (Neave, 2006). The empirical evidence discussed here indicates that in UK universities there is a complex situation in which knowledge activities are driven by pragmatic responses to a host of institutional, political, financial, disciplinary and personal imperatives. We identify five discourses which permeate both institutions and all six research units studied. One discourse relates to the research quality assessment processes; a second to the economic use value of research; a third to social and academic value; a fourth to academics’ freedom; and a fifth to mixed-discipline research. We argue that these produce a contradictory and confusing mixture of discourses that drive UK research in a haphazard way and that more coherent strategies underpinned by a sense of social justice are needed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChange in Networks, Higher Educationand Knowledge Societies
Subtitle of host publicationTheoretical Perspectives and Empirical Analyses
EditorsJussi Välimaa, David Hoffmann
Place of PublicationDordrecht, The Netherlands
ISBN (Print)9789401773683
Publication statusPublished - 6 Nov 2015

Publication series

NameThe Changing Academy – The Changing Academic Profession in International Comparative Perspective


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