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Description Time & Society The online version of this article can be found at:   DOI: 10.1177/0961463X10381528 2010 19: 345 Time Society Sue Clegg Time future - the dominant discourse of higher education     Published by: can be found at: Time & Society Additional services and information for Email Alerts: Subscription
Transcript  Time & Society online version of this article can be found at: DOI: 10.1177/0961463X10381528 2010 19: 345 Time Society  Sue Clegg Time future - the dominant discourse of higher education  Published by:  can be found at: Time & Society  Additional services and information for Email Alerts: Subscriptions: Reprints: Permissions: Citations:  What is This? - Nov 30, 2010Version of Record >>  at University of Bucharest on October 23, 2014tas.sagepub.comDownloaded from at University of Bucharest on October 23, 2014tas.sagepub.comDownloaded from   Time future – thedominant discourse of higher education Sue Clegg Leeds Metropolitan University, UK Abstract The paper presents a critique of the dominant temporality of higher educationpolicyintheUKandglobally.Itarguesthatthetemporalityof‘employability’iswhatBarbara Adam and Chris Groves describe as the ‘present future’; a conception of the future as empty and open. Drawingon theworkof Margaret Archer, the paperexplores the differing existential temporalities associated with different forms of reflexivity and explores the complex temporalities of personal development plan-ning. The increasing tempo of university life makes imagining otherwise, based onan ethical care for the future, increasingly difficult but nonetheless imperative. Keywords critical realism, employability, future, higher education, reflexivity Introduction This paper explores the ways in which the dominant modality of pedagog-ical discourses in higher education involves an orientation towards thefuture; temporality is coded as future time for the person, their achieve-ments, and their employability. The type of futures presented in the dis-course of UK higher education policy entails what Barbara Adam andChris Groves (2007) call the ‘present future’. The present future [r]efers to approaches to the future from the standpoint of the present throughwhich we seek to predict, transform and control the future for the benefit of  Time and Society19(3) 345–364 ! The Author(s) 2010Reprints and 10.1177/ Corresponding author: Sue Clegg, Centre for Research into Higher Education, Carnegie Research Institute, LeedsMetropolitan University, Cavendish Hall, Headingley Campus, Beckett Park, Leeds LS6 3QSEmail:   at University of Bucharest on October 23, 2014tas.sagepub.comDownloaded from   the present. It projects the future as a terrain that is  empty, open  and subject tocolonisation. (Adam and Groves, 2007: 200, emphasis in srcinal) Policy assumes a future in which students are projected as good, neo-liberal, employable subjects. This assumed ‘timescape’ (Adam, 2004) doesnot go beyond the life of the individual and in effect restricts the future tothe active life of the person. The ‘present future’ implied by the discourse of employability does not even extend to old age, much less to generationsbeyond. The nature of the personal projects described in policy are those of individual social mobility (DfES, 2003). I offer a critique of the ‘progressive’assumptions involved in these descriptions of mobility by pointing to thestructurally differentiated opportunities stratified higher education presents(Clegg, 2008; Machin and Vignoles, 2004). More fundamentally, however, Isuggest that at the existential level this is not the only temporality. In think-ing through the implications of the discursive and material practices of thepresent future Adam and Groves (2007) rightly caution against either/or.They argue that what we are seeing is a displacement rather than a replace-ment of time as ‘embedded, embodied, contextual’ (Adam and Groves,2007: 79). Feminist scholars in particular have extended our understandingof the embodied, and the spatial metaphor of nomad with the associationsof wandering and circularity (Hughes, 2002) remains powerful in under-standing the ways in which real embodied persons return and revisit, ratherthan simply move on. Feminist scholarship in particular has emphasized thepower of and/and rather than either/or.In seeking to disrupt the dominant assumptions about the re-descriptionof the goods of higher education in terms of individual social mobility andthe valorization of the sorts of reflexivity associated with this goal, thepaper draws on Margaret Archer’s work on multiple forms of reflexivitywhich she details in  Making our Way through the World   (2007). She iden-tifies the reflexive work involved in ‘staying put’ and points out that the‘internal conversations’ of persons do not all take the same form. Highereducation, however, discursively valorizes only certain forms of reflexivityand limits the ways in which we might think about the future (Adam andGroves, 2007). In the dominant neo-liberal narrative ‘staying put’ isstripped of reflexivity and represented as personal failure, often requiringpunitive social intervention. The neo-liberal project also strips out ethics,rendering unintelligible the moral choices of Archer’s ‘meta-reflexives’ whomove on in nomadic mode rather than upwards and onwards.The paper, therefore, begins with an outline of the significance of theoriesof time and in particular the work of Adam and Groves (2007) on concep-tualizationsofthefuture.Thesecondsectionoffersacritiqueofthediscourseof employability andthemultiple mis-descriptions ofpractice this involvesin 346  Time and Society 19(3)  at University of Bucharest on October 23, 2014tas.sagepub.comDownloaded from   terms of the life chances of individuals. The third part of the paper then turnsto the broader conception of reflexivity and the sorts of personhood entailedwithin the discourse. This is followed by an analysis of some of the pedagog-ical technologies, notably personal development planning, involved in posi-tioningstudentswithinthetimescapesofemployability.Iarguethatrealizingthe self within these technologies is difficult for many students and theirexperiences of time are much more complex than implied by the technical-rationality of ‘planning’. The fifth section contextualizes these relationshipsand extends the argument beyond the student experience. The nature andpurposes of the modern university have been substantially reworked encom-passing not just a reductionist discourse of employability but fundamentalshifts towards what Slaughter and Rhoades (2004) describe as ‘academiccapitalism’ and Marginson and Considine (2000) as the ‘enterprise univer-sity’. These tendencies are complicit in the general speeding up of time inhighereducation(Land,2006;Virilio,2000)whichimpactsonacademicsandstudents alike. These pressures make thinking about the future as other thanan empty canvas difficult (Adam and Groves, 2007). The timescapes of theacademy are short term, fast and inimical to reflection about longer termethical consequences. In the conclusion I bring these strands together tothink about how we might reframe higher education from the standpointof time and reflexivity based on an understanding of the ‘internal conversa-tion’ as the basis of social life (Archer, 2003). Thinking about time and the ‘present future’ Barbara Adam (1990, 1995) has been at the forefront of the movement totake time seriously in social analysis. In her earlier work Adam (1995)distinguishes different aspects of time and challenges the assumption thatwe all live in a linear ‘Western’ timeframe, which can be seen in contrastwith the cyclical rhythms of an anthropological past. Rather, she argues forthe co-existence and intermingling of different dimensions of time as co-pre-sent: time as linear divisible clock time; temporality as our being in time;timing as in ‘when’ time; and tempo the intensity of time. She synthesizesher approach in her 2004 book  Time  which deals historically with the dif-ferent ways people have lived and imagined time. In her more recent workwith Chris Groves she brings these ideas together to deal with the possibil-ities and ethics of thinking about the future. In this work they distinguishthe ways historically futures have been ‘told’ (through divination), ‘tamed’(for example through ritual), and ‘traded’ (as time becomes commodified).Crucially they point out that contemporary ideas of the future which theydescribe as ‘futures transformed’ involve the subjugation of time to human Clegg   347  at University of Bucharest on October 23, 2014tas.sagepub.comDownloaded from 
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