An Autoethnographic Account of a British Educator's Experiences in the United States For-profit College Sector

  • Helen Dunford

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


This research focuses on for-profit post-secondary education in the United States. Through autoethnography it seeks to examine the dissonance of function, belief and ethic in the role of a professional educator working in the proprietary industry. The autoethnographic data, based on personal memory data, email correspondence and interviews, show the challenges faced by staff and faculty in their efforts to meet revenue-linked performance targets set by corporate employers. The study uses grounded theory in conjunction with analytical autoethnography to identify the core concept of institutional pressure and to formulate a theory relating to the probable consequences of that pressure. While some staff and faculty are tempted to use questionable practices in order to meet required goals, others perceive they have no control over the circumstances that lead, for example, to the student attrition for which they are held responsible. The research describes how the autoethnographer and her co-workers were arguably recipients of negative feelings which were split and projected towards them by their employers and were unable to process or transform these negative feelings adequately. Some resigned from their positions and others were dismissed, but they departed taking this negativity with them in much the same way as a traditional scapegoat. As for-profit education continues to attract the attention of the media and regulatory bodies in the United States and similar colleges are established in other countries, this research has implications for those with expectations of education as a social good who find themselves required to work in a for-profit environment.
Date of Award25 Feb 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorChris James (Supervisor)


  • Post-secondary Education
  • For-Profit Education
  • Proprietary Industry
  • United States
  • Institutional Pressure

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