What are Universities for? Media Representations of Higher Education

Roxanne Stockwell, Rajani Naidoo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Applying critical discourse analysis, this article investigates how the purposes of universities are represented in the popular press in England. Analysis was conducted on all articles between 2010 and 2015 discussing the purposes of universities in a representative sample of newspapers. The corpus was analysed in terms of text production, authorial voice and the use of rhetorical devices. Key purposes of the university emerged as ‘learning for its own sake’, ‘blue skies research’ and the contribution of higher education to employment and to the public good. There was little focus on higher education’s contribution to social mobility. The debate was found to be neither extensive nor representative and dominated by elite voices with key stakeholders aggregated or missing. The analysis raises questions about the public and private benefit of universities, and the link between university perspectives, government policies and the views of the wider public.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76-101
JournalHigher Education Review
Issue number3
Publication statusAcceptance date - 2017


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