Young, H., Jerome, L.
Student voice in higher education: Opening the loop
(2020) British Educational Research Journal, 46 (3), pp. 688-705.
UK national policy and the practices of university course boards tend to reduce understandings of ‘student voice’ to a feedback loop. In this loop, students express feedback, the university takes this on board, then they tell the students how they have responded to their feedback. The feedback loop is a significant element of the neoliberal imaginary of higher education globally. This qualitative research study drew on interviews with course representatives in three universities in England, and on policy analysis, to explore the discursive construction and enactment of student voice. It uses the feedback loop as an analytical frame. Drawing on Foucault’s later work, the article aims to open up the feedback loop by exploring its manifestation in the mundane everyday practices of universities. In opening the loop, we identify the following effects of the student voice policy ensemble: students have to construct feedback as it is not just waiting to be gathered; it promotes a dividing practice, where reps are positioned differently to other students; there is a focus on problems; an ‘us and them’ is reinforced between staff and students; the loop closes down discussion; and a managerial logic obscures political processes. The article articulates its opening of the loop as a way of unmasking the modes of power which work through discourses of ‘student voice’, and hence seeks to create possibilities for resistance to being governed this way. © 2020 British Educational Research Association
course representative; feedback loop; student engagement; student satisfaction