Favoring individual entrepreneurial freedom and free-market competition, neoliberalism has reshaped the social and discursive practices of higher education institutions (HEIs) around the world. In this paper, I draw on methods from critical multimodal discourse studies and an analytic concept from linguistic anthropology to examine several sets of student service materials circulating on the campus of a Hong Kong university between 2016 and 2017. While these materials are purportedly designed with student welfare in mind, I demonstrate how they effectively position students as (1) consumers of tailored services or experiences provided by the university; and (2) entrepreneurial selves, that is, socio-economically competitive and self-managed young individuals. I conclude by arguing that these service materials are shaped by and espouse a neoliberal governmentality that (re)orients HEIs and their students towards an all-pervasive marketization, competitiveness, and assertion of class privilege in a globalizing, particularly Westernized late capitalist society in Asia.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
I would like to thank Adam Jaworski, Angel Lin, David Machin, and Elizabeth Lanza for their constructive feedback on the research reports/writings on which this paper is based. I would also extend my gratitude to HKU CEDARS and the interviewees for their participation in the study.
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- higher education
- Hong Kong
- student service