Differentiation, distinction and equality – or diversity? The language of the marketised university: an England, New Zealand comparison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review



This paper examines how, in a marketised environment, universities seek to project themselves as successful global competitors while at the same time responding to national policy expectations, particularly around promoting equal access. Through a comparison of publicly available documents from universities in England and New Zealand, the paper analyses the language universities employ to convey differential status. While discourse of business and the competition is apparent across the board, there are differences in the extent to which differently-ranked universities signify their preparedness fully to embrace economic priorities. There is, however, convergence in the use the language of ‘distinctiveness’ by means of which institutions signify difference as well as superiority. Most notable, though, is the side-lining of equality and its replacement by a discourse of ‘diversity’ which is more compatible with elitism than with social justice. The use of ‘diversity’, it is argued, supports a logic of accumulation – for both institutions and students – in which the rich are likely to reap the greatest rewards.


Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalStudies in Higher Education
Early online date16 Jun 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Jun 2016


  • Diversity, Equality, university, Ranking, Marketing, Higher Education, Language

Sustainable Development Goals