UK University part-time higher education: a corpus assisted analysis of higher education prospectuses

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Colleges, School and Institutes


In the UK, higher education (HE) policy discourse over the past 60 years has advocated flexible part-time HE for social mobility, personal development, economic advantage and leisure. However, part-time undergraduate HE in the UK is in steep decline. Against this backdrop, we were interested in how universities promote, or fail to promote, part-time study options today. We built a corpus of 90 UK undergraduate prospectuses for 2018 entry (5,673,799 words). Using a corpus-assisted discourse analysis approach, we found significant mismatch between policy discourse and marketing discourse regarding part-time study. In particular, we found that UK university marketing discourse positions full-time study as the dominant mode of study and writes of part-time study as ‘second-best’. This discourse mismatch is particularly marked when it comes to the elite Russell Group of universities. Viewing the absence of strong promotional discourse relating to part-time study alongside other factors such as increased tuition fees and the rise of global online education platforms adds a new perspective to the decline of flexible part-time undergraduate HE at campus-based universities in the UK.


Original languageEnglish
JournalHigher Education Research and Development
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jan 2020