Raising Regional Academic Voices (Alongside Data) in Higher Education (HE) Debate

Sarah Hayes*, Michael Jopling, Dennis Hayes, Andy Westwood, Alan Tuckett, Ronald Barnett

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As agendas for data-driven measures of excellence dominate policy in UK Higher Education (HE), we argue that the generic structure of national policy frameworks virtually silences regional voices. This furthers a territorially agnostic discourse about universities, downplays institutional history and purpose, risks concealing innovative practices, and fails to tackle entrenched inequalities. In response, we point to the value of live, place-based debate in HE institutions to highlight distributional inequity, raise local voices and connect these with national policy. Yet even as we compiled this article about HE debate, the Covid-19 pandemic took hold globally, cancelling face-to-face meetings, by necessity. We therefore draw on a postdigital perspective, as we share our individual dialogues in support of debate, via collective writing, against this new backdrop of social distancing and widespread uncertainty. We may not currently be able to convene our Midlands HE Policy Network (MHEPN) debates in person, but we can voice the essential part that regional universities play in connecting global technological and biological change, with local social projects, citizens and industry. Postdigital theory offers one route to understanding that Covid-19 does not sit apart from other political economic challenges in HE and beyond, that we need to debate simultaneously.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)242-260
Number of pages19
JournalPostdigital Science and Education
Issue number1
Early online date13 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

© Springer Nature B.V. 2021. The final publication is available at Springer via https://doi.org/10.1007/s42438-020-00131-6


  • 4IR
  • Collective writing
  • Covid-19
  • Excellence frameworks
  • Live debate
  • Neoliberal policy
  • Postdigital
  • Regional universities


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