Exploring University Management and Academics Interpretations of Excellence Discourse in Ghanaian Higher Education through the lens of Neoliberal Governmentality.

Year: 2021

Author: Intsiful, Emmanuel

Type of paper: Individual Paper

Over the past decade, excellence discourse has become ubiquitous and pervasive in (re)shaping how universities internationally construct their strategic ambitions. Despite the widespread use of excellence discourse, literature characterizes its meaning as slippery and subjective. Hence, this study used semi-structured interviews with university management (n=4) and academics (n=4) to critically explore interpretations and experiences of excellence discourse on core university activities. Foucault’s theoretical constructs of neoliberal governmentality and subjectivity are employed as an analytic frame.The findings reveal that actor’s conceptualisation of excellence discourse is couched within institutional self-marketing and quest for global competition which is a product of neoliberal ideology. Specifically, excellence was understood as becoming a world-class university through teaching excellence, research innovation, quality, having a global reputation, and visibility. Furthermore, the findings suggest that excellence discourse implicitly subjects academics to publish in high impact journals, collaborate with academics in other world-class universities and pursue research grants/funding from donors. The study reveals how the market logic of performativity through audit systems of the knowledge economy govern the university activities. Thereby exacerbating individualism and competitiveness, causing misrecognition and marginalisation in higher education. The study recommends the need for university actors to either move beyond the fixation or balance how neoliberal regimes influences the conduct and behaviour of higher education activities and (re)focus on enhancing the local needs/challenges or challenges of society.