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This article describes ways in which the equity agenda, as outlined in the Bradley Review of Higher Education (Bradley et al., 2008), is translated into action in one Australian university. Drawing on the conceptual work of Ahmed (2012) to elaborate institutional life, we investigate the effects of the widening participation policy. Ahmed (2012) provokes us to consider institutional commitment as a non-performative in order to examine the association between names and effects as central to institutional cultures. This is achieved through a focus not only on what documents circulating within institutions say but what they do from the perspective of those working with them. The paper draws on three statements of commitment made by various Australian universities in the form of publicly available mission statements and strategic plans to explore how universities value, construct and authenticate their role in widening participation. It then proceeds by supplementing these texts with qualitative data gathered through semi-structured interviews with academic and professional staff in one Australian university to examine how such statements of commitment inform us of the extent to which they are practised or utilised as demonstrations of action in and of themselves. Drawing on Rizvi and Lingard’s (2011) work on social equity in Australian higher education, we argue that statements of commitment to equity and widening participation from universities in the current neoliberal policy assemblage can function to mask the ways in which universities continue to redefine educational values in terms of economics (Rizvi and Lingard, 2011).

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Journal Article

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