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Title: Questioning the machine : academics' perceptions of tensions and trade-offs in undergraduate education at one English university
Author: Meth, Deanna
ISNI:       0000 0004 5992 2093
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2016
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Exploring the proposition that in our consumer society, undergraduate students are now denied the opportunity to transform into critical thinking scholars, this case study explores academics’ beliefs about the purpose and shape of an ideal undergraduate higher education. Located in one English research-intensive university, research focuses on their perceptions of transformation as a concept, and how it is enabled or denied. Adopting a critical realist approach, the study responds to an absence of work on the effects of marketisation on curricula and pedagogy, and academics’ shifting identities in national policy and local practice. Academics’ views link to tensions in a changing higher education system, where managerialisation and marketisation have been compounded by the emergence of a global knowledge economy, massification, a new digital age, and more recently, the global financial crisis and a conservative government. Within this, and setting the context for fourteen in-depth interviews, increasingly influential ‘students as consumers’ and ‘student experience’ discourses are explored through critical examination of national and institutional policy documents. Using a presage-process-product (3P) model, the thesis links academics’ aspirations for an ideal undergraduate education which develops knowledge and intellectual approaches grounded within a discipline (product), to elements that ‘enable’ or ‘deny’ in curricula and pedagogy (process), and the wider institutional environment, such as academics’ roles, student numbers and quality processes (presage). Academics describe the ways in which they negotiate, subvert or overcome these elements. The study uses a suite of concepts including quality discourses, university psychosis, unregulated play, and models of knowledge, curriculum and pedagogy, to visualise tensions surfaced and disentangle the concept of transformation. In proposing a way forward, conclusions note the need for the university to overtly acknowledge trade-offs made, and to consider more deeply the impact of presage and process elements on academics, students, and the undergraduate education aimed for.
Supervisor: Ecclestone, Kathryn Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ed.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available