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The Student Stakeholder: A Critical Discourse Analysis of Regulations in Universities in Great Britain

By Raymond Martin Sheehan

Abstract

The aim of this research is to explore linguistically how equitably students as primary stakeholders are constructed within a corpus of regulatory texts from fifty British universities. A critical discourse perspective is developed in order to understand how power relations are encoded in these regulations. A mixed methods approach is used, with analysis of quantitative data derived from the corpus as the starting point. Observation of lexical frequencies and patterning in the corpus drives the selection of subsequent data for clausal analysis rooted in systemic functional linguistics. It is noted that there is a low occurrence of verbs that encode material processes of doing, and a high occurrence of modal verbs and mental verbs, with a particularly high usage of the verb will. The implications of these occurrences and also of the high incidence of the passive voice and nominalization are discussed in relation to the encoding of organizational ontology, where students may be constrained, marginalized or even excluded. The thesis, moving beyond analysis and interpretation at the level of the lexeme and the clause, considers two main ways stakeholders may be excluded at a broader textual level. First, the texts may be encoded at such difficult levels of readability that they fail to empower student-stakeholders in high-stakes situations where they may be in conflict with the organization. Second, Theme/Rheme analysis bears out the corpus patterns that show the student is rarely in a strong agentive position in the text. The thesis urges the construction of more dialogic and empowering texts, both at universities and in other contexts where stakeholders risk being disempowered by the organization’s anonymous authors. The conjoined efforts of organizational and linguistic research can provide the principles for writing more emancipatory texts that serve the stakeholder better by minimizing unilateral institutional encoding of dominance and redressing social inequalities

Publisher: University of Leicester
Year: 2011
OAI identifier: oai:lra.le.ac.uk:2381/9279

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