How New Zealand universities present themselves to the public: an analysis of communication strategies

Roggendorf, Nadine
Nelson, Frances
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Master of Arts in Communication Studies
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Auckland University of Technology

This thesis investigates how the eight state-funded New Zealand universities present themselves in the prospectuses they publish yearly. The background for this research is the fact that the universities now have to compete for students and funding monies because the government has linked the amount of funding to the number of students and the universities’ success in research (McKenzie, 1996). Additionally, student fees and private sources increasingly contribute to the universities’ budget. The entry of competition into the tertiary education sector is a result of recent policy changes that led the education sector from an egalitarian scholarly system with a tradition of open and free access for all citizens to a market-oriented education industry, which contributes considerably to the national economy. This restructuring of the tertiary education sector is part of the major social, political and economic changes that New Zealand went through – and is still going through – beginning with the Fourth Labour Government's second term of office from 1987 to 1990 (Holland & Boston, 1990). The historical background of this thesis focuses on these policy changes that influenced all areas of the public life in New Zealand in the last 25 years. The literature review established that these reforms resulted in processes of commodification of education, competitive marketisation and corporatisation of the universities (Butterworth & Tarling, 1994). The purpose of this thesis is to find evidence of these three tendencies within the language and visual presentation of the university prospectuses. The prospectuses have been chosen as the data corpus because they provide a comprehensive overview of the institutions. Moreover, they represent a hybrid genre of an advertorial text type, being partly informational, partly promotional. The data has been analysed by applying textually-oriented discourse analysis (Fairclough, 1992). Discourse analysis has been proven to be a suitable methodology as it links linguistic analysis to the broader social context. The premise of this approach was that social changes leave traces within the discourse. The data analysis confirmed the intended outcome that the tendencies of commodification, marketisation and corporatisation are visible in the present material. This concludes that the order of discourse of business has colonised the order of discourse of tertiary education.

Textually-oriented discourse analysis , Commodification of education , New Zealand universities , University prospectuses , Corporatisation , Marketisation
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