The global market and its impact on an Australian university's pathway programs : policies, pragmatics and personal realities

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Faculty of Education and Arts

First Advisor

Bridget Leggett


The story of this study is of the influences of the global market narrative on higher education, the policy responses by one Australian university (Tyler University) and the impact on English language education, the Tyler Foundation Studies pathway program and the staff in that program.

The literature points to patterns and commonalities across the sector (globally and nationally) in regard to the ways in which an almost unquestioning adoption of market principles is shaping higher education policy. Universities have become synonymous with economic growth and a nation'‟s ability to compete in the global knowledge economy. As English is the language of the global market so an English medium degree provides access to the knowledge economy. Students from developed and developing nations are increasing their participation in higher education and create a ready market of consumers. Competition for revenue and for students is influencing the ways in which universities operate. The marketability of an institution, in terms of its courses, research and staff are seen as integral to increase ranking and status in the sector.

The research presented in this portfolio is a case study of the Tyler Foundation Studies Program in 2007. The approach taken draws on Ball‟s (1993) trajectory studies approach and involves an analysis of the „bigger picture‟ of global and national policy contexts, before focusing on the ways in which these influences impact on the university, the program itself, and the staff in the program. As such, it makes a contribution to an area of scholarship which is under-represented in the literature on English language education, in that it focuses on policies, pragmatics and personal realities, rather than the more conventional focus on pedagogy and curriculum.

Data for the research comes from interviews with staff and policy documents. In particular, a series of interviews with staff from „top to bottom‟, from Pro-Vice- Chancellor to lecturer, to reveal the Tyler „storylines‟. The influences of market ideology and government funding shortfalls emerge as critical factors shaping Tyler‟s operations and organisational culture. Increasing the university‟s competitive position and targeted internationalisation initiatives to attract full fee paying international students are also significant.

The influences that impact on the positioning of the Foundation Studies Program are part of the bigger picture of Tyler‟s strategic positioning within the university sector. Institutional reform and competition from the private sector emerge as factors that impact directly on its positioning. Interviewees describe the focus on the commercial applications of internationalisation; award pathways, streamlined articulation and a new policy position on English language with the goal of „global‟ language competency for all students. Taken together, these mean that a non-award university pathway like the Foundation Studies Program is first marginalised and later closed.

For Foundation Studies staff the key positioning factors are those that stem from an organisational culture where conformity to corporate values and interests is crucial to strategic positioning and define what is required of an academic at Tyler. The lack of academic credibility and marginal status attributed to English language education, and the view that pathway programs are service functions to be run on a strictly commercial basis, contribute to the view that English language teaching staff should be employed under different work conditions.

The context of university education is set to change with the implementation of the recommendations of the Bradley Review of Australian Higher Education (2008). In particular, universities may be forced to re-examine the ways they support students from non-traditional backgrounds, and induct them into the culture of the university: issues which parallel those faced by the Foundation Studies Program. As such, the conclusions reached and the questions raised in the research have relevance for the future. This issue is discussed in the final chapter.

LCSH Subject Headings

Students, Foreign - Australia.

Education, Higher – Australia - Marketing.

Education, Higher - Political aspects - Australia.

Language and languages - Study and teaching (Higher) - Australia.

Access Note

Access to this thesis is restricted to current ECU staff and students. Email request to library@ecu.edu.au

Access to this thesis is restricted. Please see the Access Note below for access details.