A journey into silence: students, stakeholders and the impact of a strategic governmental policy document in the UK

Sandra Sinfield (Learning Area Coordinator: learnhigher.ac.uk and Co‐ordinator for Learning and Language Development, London Metropolitan University, London, UK)
Debbie Holley (Principal Lecturer in Learning and Teaching, London Metropolitan University, London, UK)
Tom Burns (Senior Lecturer in Learning Development, Learning Development Unit, London Metropolitan University, London, UK)

Social Responsibility Journal

ISSN: 1747-1117

Publication date: 2 October 2009



In the UK, higher education (HE) is being positioned as the new global business, and the power relations between its various stakeholders – society, the business community, management, staff, students – makes this not only uncharted, but also contested ground. This paper aims to map the new terrain with a focus on, and analysis of, one key government policy document: The Harnessing Technology (2005).


Critical theory and textual analysis are used to research and analyse power relations as inscribed in policy discourse – the structures, the language, and the voices. The document is explored particularly in relation to its impact on prime stakeholders within the new contexts of today's HE; a HE that is embracing information communications technology (e‐learning) – “for business”.


Harnessing Technology boasts a heteroglossia and the capturing of many authentic voices in its composition which should open up a dialogic between its stakeholders; in fact power is revealed as refined, unified – deferring to centralised authority. Textual analysis reveals HE as a journey into silence for the student as stakeholder, where the voices that are not repressed are those with economic and institutional power. This analysis shows the student is constructed as either silent or deficit and the conclusions suggest that rather than a discourse of transformation, “regulation not education”, is the real goal of the dominant educational stakeholders.


The critical approach to policy analysis in the paper can be adapted by others seeking to critique policy in a variety of different policy contexts. This is particularly significant where policy is not interrogated, but where nevertheless it influences institutional mission statements and the seepage pollutes practice.



Sinfield, S., Holley, D. and Burns, T. (2009), "A journey into silence: students, stakeholders and the impact of a strategic governmental policy document in the UK", Social Responsibility Journal, Vol. 5 No. 4, pp. 566-574. https://doi.org/10.1108/17471110910995401

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