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Inaugural Lecture: Professor Sarah Hayes

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University of Wolverhampton

MX004, Houseman Building (MX Building)

Camp Street, City Campus North

Wolverhampton

WV1 1AD

United Kingdom

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When faced with ‘technological unemployment’...isn't it time university policies ‘worked’ for us?

Date: 22 May

16:30 –17:15 Lecture
17:15 – 17:40 Open debate (Discussant: Professor Michael Jopling)
17:40 – 18:00 Light refreshments

About the Lecture

It may seem obvious to say that universities are comprised of students and staff…however, when widespread unemployment due to technological advances is a real possibility…there are no certainties for human labour in the world of work. More complex than simply ‘robots taking our jobs’, the 4th Industrial Revolution, or second machine age (Brynjolfsson & McAfee, 2014), presents both risks and opportunities for universities (Peters, Jandrić and Hayes, 2018).

All are invited to this lively public lecture and debate, where Sarah will discuss (with plenty of humour) findings from her critical sociological and linguistic analysis of approximately 2.5 million words of written Higher Education (HE) policy discourse. Her latest book: The Labour of Words in Higher Education (Hayes, 2019) was inspired by the work of George Ritzer on the McDonaldisation of Society (1992, 1997, 2008, 2018). Sarah introduces the idea of McPolicy, drawing comparisons between language adopted in strategies for: ‘the student experience’, ‘technology enhanced learning’, ‘student engagement’ and ‘employability’….and the marketing of, for example, a regular cappuccino or a gingerbread latte…

More serious implications, as discussed in Sarah’s recent Wonkhe article, are that McPolicy frequently fails to be inclusive or representative of the activities of students and staff, instead linguistically ‘subcontracting’ their academic labour and recognition to strategies, buzz-phrases, or frameworks. With increasing automation in society, driverless cars are no longer futuristic, homes can be adjusted remotely, human choices are underpinned by algorithms and HE is increasingly data-driven. Sarah asks if, given these circumstances, instead of attributing responsibility for social change to abstract linguistic notions of education, a new and creative shared vision is needed in universities? How might more agency be explicitly attributed in policy to the researchers, teachers, and students who are the genuine human future of work? Open debate is then invited from the audience, led by Professor Michael Jopling.

About the Speaker

Originally an art student in Edinburgh in the 1980s, Sarah never dreamed that later in life she would become a research professor in a university. Having worked in HE for 20 years now, Sarah is Professor in Higher Education Policy, based in the College of Learning and Teaching (CoLT), at University of Wolverhampton, and a Principal Fellow of the HEA. Previously Sarah was a Senior Lecturer at Aston University, where she is now an honorary professor. Sarah led a Masters in Education and taught Sociology at Aston and has also taught at University of Worcester. Sarah takes a critical pedagogical approach and was a co-recipient in 2013 for a British Sociological Association (BSA) teaching award and achieved a SEDA Institutional Change Leader Award in 2015 for student partnership. Sarah has taught internationally in Italy, Vietnam, India, Singapore and Muscat.

Sarah’s research into Higher Education policy intersects across Sociology, Technology and Education. She has edited several special issues, published articles, books and chapters through European Political Science, Open Review of Educational Research, Brill, Libri, Springer, Routledge and Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI). Sarah has also published several Wonkhe articles and was commissioned by UK Parliament (2017-2018) to encourage stronger student and teacher engagement with Parliamentary resources. She was commissioned by the UK Quality Assurance Agency (2015) to write on MOOCs and Quality. Sarah has led several Jisc and HEFCE-funded projects, collaborated on an ESRC funded project, leading to a jointly authored book and is an Associate Editor for the Springer Journal Postdigital Science and Education. Details of Sarah’s publications can be found here: Google Scholar , Aston Research Explorer, ORCID, WIRE

All are welcome, booking required


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University of Wolverhampton

MX004, Houseman Building (MX Building)

Camp Street, City Campus North

Wolverhampton

WV1 1AD

United Kingdom

View Map

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