#LTHEChat 235 Whose higher education is it anyway? Led by Adam Tate @Adam_Tate1 on 18th May 2022, 8pm BST

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This week Dr Adam Tate asks the question “whose higher education is it anyway?”

Higher Education (HE) in England has had to adapt at pace in response to the Covid-19 pandemic providing opportunities and challenges for all parties. Most notably this has involved navigating a great deal of uncertainty, at a time when the sector was already negotiating the outcomes of the Augar Review and the potential reprofiling of the sector (Ahlburg, 2020; Whalley et al., 2021). The HE Sector in England, as part of the Global Knowledge Economy, has been experiencing further challenges from providing financial sustainability in an increasingly connected and marketised place, making course design and delivery more dependent upon each HE provider securing student numbers (Nielsen, 2015).

With shifts in how the HE sector is financed, notably since 1992, there has been a shift in the perception of the purpose and role of HE by students, staff, business, government, and other publics. Numerous reports into the HE sector have focused on sustainability and efficiency with the idea of value for money. Such changes are not only in the perception but also in the apparatus, regulation, and operation of the sector; with HE providers having more responsibility than ever before for self-sustainability. With a focus on the finances, this plays a significant role in decisions made by universities to attract students, through a show of on the one hand investment into the university and the student experience, a metaphor for showing that the student debt investment in that university is a good choice. The entrepreneurial university being positioned as one that is rooted within a global market and is supports staff and students develop a range of skills for life and contributing to the economy. This way of conceptualising the sector and individual universities provides a challenge to who HE is for, what HE is for, and how HE is conducted. This picks up key thought by the likes of Ron Barnett, Stephen Ball, and many other key thinkers.


  • Ahlburg D. A. (2020). Covid‐19 and UK Universities. The Political Quarterly, 91(3), 649–654.
  • Nielsen, G. (2015). Figuration Work. Student participation, democracy and university reform in a global knowledge economy. New York and Oxford: Berghahn.
  • Whalley, B.; France, D.; Park, J.; Mauchline, A.; Welsh, K. Towards flexible personalized learning and the future educational system in the fourth industrial revolution in the wake of Covid-19. High. Educ. Pedagog. 2021, 6, 79–99.

Chat Questions

Q1 Does the university work for students or do students work for the university? 

Q2 Whose voice is most important in decision making in the university?

Q3 Name an example of when a government/sector policy has had an impact on students’ experience?

Q4 How able are students to make a change in their university? 

Q5 How important are Student Unions for representing students in decision making?

Q6 How have student behaviours shifted since increases in tuition fees to £9,000 per year in England?


The wakelet for the chat is here https://wke.lt/w/s/cjO9Mx

The Host’s Bio

Adam is a Lecturer in Academic Practice teaching on the Academic Professional Apprenticeship (APA) / Postgraduate Certificate of Learning & Teaching in Higher Education (PGCLTHE) at Nottingham Trent University. He is passionate about effective education, utilising inclusive pedagogies and removing barriers to participation. He is studying for a PhD in Education at Oxford Brookes University. He is researching the extent to which universities’ interactions with their students reflect or embody the ‘soft power’ of the state as distinct from their own wholly autonomous actions as education providers. To that end, my research explores how student behaviours and practices are influenced by universities. 

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