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Academic subjectivities at stake: different university contexts, different responses to reform

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Chapter 8 traced the change from a receding ‘democratic and Humboldtian university discourse’ to a rapidly emerging ‘knowledge economy university discourse’ and showed that different university contexts responded differently to the new dominant university discourse. As will be explored further in ethnographic detail in this chapter, this general discursive space points to varying room for manoeuvre when implemented by individual academic subjects. In between the general and the individual levels are the levels of the university, faculty and department, and, in some instances, also the research section within the department. Each of these intermediate levels has its own dominant discursive spaces in terms of differences in culture, tradition and formal and informal power networks. This has made it difficult to predict exactly how the centralised introduction of a given signifier or political technology would affect local practice.
To complicate matters further, some academic subjects were embedded in departments and universities that were very centralised and centripetal (i.e. researchers were very orientated towards demands from heads of departments, rectors, etc.), whereas academic subjects in other departments were centrifugal and oriented towards the national and international research networks in which they found their identity. Some academic subjects, especially those from the research areas that had the attention of government priorities, expressed no fear of changes. On the other hand, academic subjects in the humanities seemed more worried that their fields would not fit as well into the knowledge-economy discourse. However, even this situation was complicated by the fact some humanities departments had – for local reasons – been operating on the market (external funding etc.) for decades and accumulated strategies for long-term survival that somehow resonated well with new demands.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEnacting the university : Danish university reform in an ethnographic perspective
EditorsSusan Wright, Stephen Carney, John Benedicto Krejsler, Gritt B. Nielsen, Jakob Williams Ørberg
Place of publicationDordrecht
PublisherSpringer
Publication year2019
Pages239-257
Chapter9
ISBN (print)978-94-024-1919-1
ISBN (Electronic)978-94-024-1921-4
Publication statusPublished - 2019
SeriesHigher Education Dynamics
Volume53
ISSN1571-0378

Bibliographical note

John Benedicto Krejsler is Professor at the Danish School of Education, Aarhus University. His research on ‘New conditions for (pre-)school and teacher education – in a transnational perspective’ brings together education policy, new conditions for producing ’truths’ & social technologies. He is President of the Nordic Educational Research Association and council member of the European Educational Research Association (2009-2018). He was a Visiting Professor at Kristianstad University (Sweden) (2009-2010) and at UCLA (2015-2016).

    Research areas

  • Academic subjectivities, Higher education reform, Danish university reform, Foucault

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