Invisible labour: Do we need to reoccupy student engagement policy?

Research output: Contribution to specialist publication or newspaperEditor of Special issue


The 'academic orthodoxy' (Brookfield 1986) of student engagement is questioned by Zepke, who suggests that it supports 'a neoliberal ideology' (2014: 698). In reply, Trowler argues that Zepke fails to explain the mechanisms linking neoliberalism to the concepts and practices of student engagement (2015: 336). In this article, I respond to the Zepke-Trowler debate with an analysis of student engagement policies that illuminates the role of discourse as one mechanism linking neoliberal values with practices of student engagement. Through a corpus-based Critical Discourse Analysis, I demonstrate a persistent and alarming omission of human labour from university policy texts. Instead, the engagements of students and staff are attributed to technology, documents and frameworks. Student engagement is discussed as a commodity to be embedded and marketed back to students in a way that yields an 'exchange value' (Marx 1867) for universities. 

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
Specialist publicationLATISS
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2018

Bibliographical note

This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedited version of an article published in Learning and Teaching. The definitive publisher-authenticated version 'Invisible labour: Do we need to reoccupy student engagement policy?' Sarah Hayes. Learning and Teaching, 11:1, 19-34. is available online at:


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