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Universities and Unicorns project: A critical analysis of investors’ logic in business discourse

Research output: Book/Report/ProceedingsCommissioned report

Publication date23/10/2021
Place of PublicationLancaster
PublisherLancaster University
Number of pages42
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Within the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic, EdTech investors are scaffolding new digital markets in HE, reshaping the conceptualization of universities, HE and the sector itself more generally (Williamson 2021). This investigation is primarily qualitative and focuses on the subtle discursive nuances brought about by alternative linguistic configurations in the reshaping of the HE sector. These are examined operationalizing a cognitive-linguistic approach to Critical Discourse Studies (CL-CDS; Hart 2020) with a focus on Conceptual Metaphor (Lakoff and Johson 1980), and event-construal in terms of force-dynamics (Talmy 2000). The data examined includes investment theses and manifestos, interviews with EdTech professionals and investors, financial prediction charts and fund announcements. Our findings reveal that a small number of Conceptual Metaphors serve to underpin the ideological foundations for the acceleration of digitalization processes of HE, along with the formulation of push and pull factors affecting the sector in terms of force-dynamics. These findings broadly reflect a neoliberal logic, and also inform of the subtle transition towards models of assetization (Komljenovic 2020, 2021) in the HE sector.