Management discourse in university administrative documents in Sweden: How it recontextualizes and fragments scholarly practices and work processes

Per Ledin and David Machin

Abstract

Studies in CDA have revealed the nature of the marketized language that now infuses universities and other public institutions, but there is no comprehensive study as to how this language enters the everyday practices of the university through different levels of steering documents and meetings. In this paper, taking one example from a corpus of data from a larger project on New Public Management in Sweden, we show how successively more detailed documents are created by professional administrators in order to present vision statements, that are first operationalized into strategies and then into more concrete ‘activities’ for the subject level that are related to bundles of performance indicators. These documents re-contextualize practices of teaching and research in line with marketized goals, yet do so through consistent lack of clear agency, causality and process. A number of linguistic and multimodal resources are deployed in a chain of interrelated documents legitimizing this process as one made by careful, technical, management expertise, although the result is a fragmentation of the actual interconnected processes that comprise university work.

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