Quiet Silencing: Restricting the Criminological Imagination in the Neoliberal University


Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In the neoliberal university, which has been reshaped in accordance with aggressive market priorities and business ethos, the logic of academic capitalism has commodified learning and valorised competition. The production of academic knowledge has become prized for its productiveness and capacity to be traded rather than for its integral educational value or its potential to personally, socially and politically reward, enlighten and empower (Barton et al, 2010; Walters, 2007). The neoliberalization of labour markets, particularly in times of austerity, has meant that gaining employment after graduation has become (understandably) a primary objective of most students. Responding to ‘consumer preferences’, university businesses have, in turn, begun to prioritise ‘employability’ above all else. Employability has become ‘fetishized’, in that institutions have developed an excessive and irrational commitment to the notion. This is despite it being vaguely defined, contradictory to other educational values and, in terms of effectiveness, poorly evidenced. In recent years, organisational and state mechanisms have been used to silence dissent. Competitive neo-liberal league tables (REF , NSS , TEF etc), which epitomise the antithesis of the collective, empathic politics and values of critical education, provide examples. Opposition to these forms of measurement is strong amongst academics but can be easily silenced when failure to participate and ‘succeed’ over others is constructed as having negative impacts on colleagues (loss of jobs, loss of research funding) or institutions (reduction in place in league tables; reduction in student numbers and so on). The rhetoric of ‘collegiality’ and loyalty is cleverly employed so staff become responsibilised for institutional ‘success’. Through this process the neoliberal discourse becomes internalised and opposition becomes ‘absorbed’. In this chapter we draw upon a small scale piece of research conducted with critical criminologists working in Universities in England, Wales and the North of Ireland. Specifically, by utilizing Mathiesen’s concept of quiet, or ‘silent’ silencing, we examine the bearing of ‘employability’ rhetoric on the university, the discipline of (specifically critical) criminology, and staff and student experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEmployability via Higher Education
Subtitle of host publicationSustainability as Scholarship
EditorsAlice Diver
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-26342-3
ISBN (Print) 978-3-030-26341-6
Publication statusPublished - 8 Oct 2019


  • employability
  • criminology
  • neoliberalism
  • university


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