Seminar recording available: Professor Sarah Hayes

6 May 2019
Sarah Hayes profile photograph


Have you ever wondered….who does higher education policy actually ‘work’ for?

Professor Sarah Hayes, University of Wolverhampton

This seminar took place on Friday 3rd May at Moray House School of Education and Sport

Link to seminar recording

When it comes to higher education policy – how confident are educators, students, senior managers, politicians, and media reporters that what is written is actually inclusive or representative of the diversity of students and staff? Drawing on excepts from her new book The Labour of Words in Higher Education: Is it Time to Reoccupy Policy?, just published by Brill, Professor Sarah Hayes takes a humorous approach in sharing details of her comprehensive linguistic analysis of UK policy documents, examining the language of “the student experience”, “technology enhanced learning”, “student engagement” and “employability”. 

Inspired by the work of George Ritzer, on the McDonaldisation of Society, Professor Hayes adopts the term McPolicy to describe a rational method of writing policy, now widespread across UK universities and disseminated through digital media. Professor Hayes concludes that strong levels of repetition and standardised statements will begin to resemble any menu in a global catering chain. A similar logic to marketing a regular cappuccino or a gingerbread latte seems to have been adopted in writing HE strategy, regardless of which university or organisation it may relate to. But it gets worse. Whether inadvertently or not, these HE policies also routinely omit references to the very students and staff who are expected to enact the many academic labour processes described. Instead, a strategy, buzz-phrase or framework, is credited with our work.

However, Professor Hayes also argues that this is not a pessimistic account, because a critical appraisal can yield new fruitful ways to resist oppressive trends that might otherwise go unnoticed. Debate is therefore invited on the range of ways in which we might seek to reoccupy McPolicy through collaboration and initiatives that raise the volume and diversity of human voices in universities.


Sarah Hayes is Professor of Higher Education Policy in the College of Learning & Teaching (CoLT) at University of Wolverhampton. Previously Sarah was a Senior Lecturer at Aston University and Programme Director for Aston’s PG Diploma and Masters in Education. Prior to this, Sarah taught at University of Worcester. Sarah takes a critical pedagogical approach and taught Sociology before moving into Education. Her research into Higher Education policy discourse intersects across Sociology, Technology and Education.  Read more