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An ‘unavoidable’ dynamic? Understanding the ‘traditional’ learner–teacher power relationship within a higher education context

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/10/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>British Journal of Sociology of Education
Issue number7
Number of pages16
Pages (from-to)1070-1085
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date13/08/21
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Power relationships between undergraduates and academics are frequently overlooked. This article explores the construction of a ‘traditional’ power relationship between undergraduates and academics, through the theorisation of systemic and constitutive power and considers the prevalence of this dynamic within a higher education (HE) context. I draw from Fairclough’s three-dimensional model of critical discourse analysis to explore 32 interviews, 12 observations and 12 policy documents gathered from two post-1992 universities in England. Academics and undergraduates in this study perceived the existence of a traditional power relationship, constituted through the behavioural expectations of the established social roles of the traditional learner and teacher, which form the dynamic. I will discuss the behavioural expectations and distributed powers of the traditional learner and teacher roles, before addressing the prevalence of the traditional power relationship within the universities in this study and the barrier this creates for more collaborative dynamics.