Academic Identities and Institutional Aims: Critical Discourse Analysis of Neoliberal Keywords on U15 University Websites

Sandra Kouritzin, Satoru Nakagawa, Erika Kolomic, Taylor F. Ellis


Through their websites, universities establish global identities, enabling them to persuade potential students, partners, and research funders of their international prestige, relevance, and unique positioning to prepare students for competition in the global marketplace. They do so through forms of branding such as logos, slogans, images and texts intended to attract potential students, funders and partners. Addressing how website texts construct academic identities and reveal institutional aims, through critical discourse analysis, this paper examines textual discourses found on Canadian U15 Group of Universities’ websites. We focus specifically on how seemingly common-sense keywords are actually rich in ideological and socio-historical meaning. After identifying keywords and concepts across U15 websites, we determined that five themes dominated: University as a corporate entity, University as machine or vehicle, aspirational academic identities, market metaphors, and the doctrine of discovery. Noting the similarities in promotional discourses found across research-intensive university websites, we suggest that university websites communicate and foster neoliberal discourses, ideologies, values, and identities, thereby aligning universities with the values associated with consumer and petro-capitalism rather than with the traditional university ideals of intellectual pursuit, knowledge creation, disciplinary wisdom, good teaching and rigorous scholarship.

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International Research in Higher Education  ISSN 2380-9183 (Print)  ISSN 2380-9205 (Online)

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