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Current national reforms in Australian higher education have prioritised efforts to reduce educational disadvantage within a vernacular expression of neoliberal education policy. Student-equity policy in universities is enmeshed in a set of competitive student recruitment relations. This raises practice-based tensions as universities strive to meet specific institutional targets for low-socio-economic status (SES) and Indigenous student participation, whilst broadening participation more generally within the sector. This paper seeks empirically to trace the activation and appropriation of federal policy through two sites of higher education policy practices: a state government-sponsored equity practitioner body and two differently positioned universities, Dawson and McIllwraith, as they engage with low-SES schools. Working together Dorothy Smith’s insights into the textually mediated activation of local practices, Levinson and colleagues’ concept of the local appropriation of authorised policy, and Bourdieu’s notion of the contested field, we demonstrate that the generation of state level and institutionally specific policies for student-equity practices not only articulates to federal policy, but also appropriates the ruling relations of mandated policy. Further, the scope of these creative local appropriations is organised within a hierarchical academic field through which particular institutional imperatives, as well as the needs of low-SES students, are negotiated. The analysis demonstrates the vernacularisation of policy in the national rearticulation of global discourses, in appropriation at the level of the state body and in the practices of equity workers.


Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education

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Journal Article

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