Taking the ‘Leap of Faith’? The Narrative Construction of Trust and Distrust in Further Education

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Without healthy levels of trust, there is a greater risk of relationship breakdown within institutions. High stakes accountability practices, fuelled by a neoliberal policy environment, have had a lasting impact upon organisational culture; and as such practice has become fuelled by risk aversion and self-interest. This thesis considers the impact that this climate has had upon how dispositions towards trust and distrust are constructed within institutions. In doing so, it posits that institutional values and culture play a significant part in shaping interpersonal affiliations, and therefore participation and dialogue are of central importance for building institutional trust. These concepts have been explored through a case study of staff and students on a Level 2 programme within a Further Education College in the North of England. Data were collected over a period of six months, and involved semi-structured narrative interviews with 15 participants, including 10 students and 5 members of staff.
Using the Dialogical Narrative Analysis (DNA) approach, a total of 10 narrative typologies have been identified relating to broader narrative tropes of ‘Trust’ and ‘Distrust’. Engagement with these tropes informed the way participants constructed their narratives; influencing levels of engagement with the institution through the positionality of self in affiliation with, or against various others. The findings of this study suggest that disposition towards trust or distrust in relation to the institution can significantly impact upon the way interpersonal relationships are constructed from both a staff and student perspective. This appears to be further linked to the individual’s perceived ideological alignment or misalignment with the institution; which has important implications for a culture which valorises competitive individualism. This suggests that greater attention must be paid to the cultivation of trust cultures through values-led leadership which respects and promotes greater collaboration and participation within the institution.
Date of Award17 Dec 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorCLARE WOOLHOUSE (Director of Studies), KEITH WILLIAMS (Supervisor) & JOHN DIAMOND (Supervisor)


  • Further Education
  • Trust
  • Distrust
  • neoliberalism
  • Risk
  • Narrative Research

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