Humans, higher education and technology - a corpus-assisted discourse and genealogical analysis of the idea of a university

Matthews, Adam ORCID: 0000-0003-4013-0232 (2021). Humans, higher education and technology - a corpus-assisted discourse and genealogical analysis of the idea of a university. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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The idea and purpose of the university is contested both historically and in contemporary discourse. Moreover, imaginaries of the future of higher education are dominated by technological disruption. The aim of this thesis is to undertake an original analysis of this development from a social and technological perspective. This provides an original contribution to knowledge in analysing both the social and technological implications of the ongoing development of the university as a social institution. I conceptualise the genealogical development of the modern university as Mode 1 Elite Ivory Tower, Mode 2 Mass Factory and Mode 3 Universal Network. I trace the genealogy of the modern university through these modes and conduct an empirical study of the contemporary idea and purpose of the university through corpus-assisted discourse analysis (CADA) of UK university texts totaling over 18 million words. This analysis is structured around the relations between humans, higher education and technology. Key findings from each of these relations are drawn together to see the social and technological disruption of the idea of a university as not separate entities but relational in the Mode 3 Sociotechnical University. These findings indicate that current Human-Higher Education relations discourse is dominated by student employment outcomes and research activity of the university as a marker of quality. Moreover, education and research are at risk of being severed and unbundled from each other. Higher Education-Technology relations discourse shows that universities describe technological disruption of the undergraduate degree with technology as an end in itself or modest instrumental ‘fixes’ to pedagogical issues. Moreover, the three-year campus-based undergraduate degree at the age of 18 dominates despite the affordances of digital technologies and policy advocating widening of access. Human-Technology relations are often characterised as humans and education being determined by technology. This technologically deterministic position opposes society determining technology (social constructivism). I reject both of these extremes to fuse together the social and technological aspects of the university drawing upon the postdigital, postphenomenology and actor-network theory. This provides the conceptual framework for the development of the Mode 3 Universal Networked Sociotechnical University. The Mode 3 University opens the university socially and technologically to many more actors including private organisations, specialist roles, diverse students, technology, culture and the wider public. These all have an influence on constructing the idea of the present and future university. The challenge for universities is to articulate the idea and purpose of a university in these new and emerging social contexts. Based on empirical analysis of UK university texts I conclude that the idea and purpose of the current university is broadly still, the Mode 2 Mass Factory and Mode 3 is now beginning to emerge.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
School or Department: School of Education
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
L Education > LC Special aspects of education > LC5201 Education extension. Adult education. Continuing education


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