The neoliberal regime in English higher education: Charters, consumers and the erosion of the public good

Rajani Naidoo, J Williams

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161 Citations (SciVal)


The restructuring of higher education (HE) according to neoliberal market principles has constructed the student consumer as a social category, thereby altering the nature, purpose and values of HE. In England, a key government attempt to champion the rights of the student consumer has taken the form of institutional charters which indicate the level of services students can expect to receive and what they will be expected to do in return. Pierre Bourdieu’s conceptual framework is applied to analyse the dynamics of practice in the context of the intensification of marketisation in English universities. The impact on student identities and learning processes, on the curriculum and on the academic practices of faculty is explored. By studying the production of institutional information related to charters, a particular image of the ‘good’ student is promoted to prospective students, which simultaneously regulates current student expectations. We argue that the marketisation of learning may result in passive and instrumental learners, a reduction in the range of disciplinary knowledge and a deterrence of innovation in teaching practices, all of which impact on the public good functions of universities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)208 - 223
Number of pages17
JournalCritical Studies in Education
Issue number2
Early online date24 Jul 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Bourdieu
  • educational policy
  • higher education
  • inequality/social exclusion in education
  • neoconservatism/neoliberalism
  • social class


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