Commodification, institutional restructuring and corporate communication in higher education : a case study of the media campaign of the University of Natal.
Changes in global political economy are moving towards 'capitalisation' of public institutions through market instruments. These changes create new environments and challenges. In order to meet these challenges, higher education institutions are restructuring to position themselves in their new environment. In this process, the media play an active role. Using corporate communication as a focal point, this research examines how higher education institutions aim to accomplish their mission, on one hand and mitigate challenges of the new political economy, characterised, by globalisation and marketisation, on the other. Using the University of Natal's corporate communication media campaign as a case study, the research looks into how education is commodified through processes of institutional restructuring and how this is reflected or mirrored through corporate communication strategies. This study is done within cultural studies and critical media research tradition. In contrast to 'administrative' studies that focus on how to use mass communications within the given political economic order to influence audiences, sell products or promote institutions, it addresses social and cultural effects of corporate communication in higher education. It offers insight into how corporate communication could be utilised for societal good instead of perpetuating social inequalities. Chapter One provides an overview of corporate communication and how it interacts with higher education by looking into challenges that threaten institutions to accomplish their mission. Chapter Two offers a theoretical framework of the new political economy through which higher education is now operating and how the media plays a role in this framework. Chapter Three provides an analysis of the media campaign of the University of Natal as evaluated against the institution's mission statement, and Chapter Four offers data analysis and lessons learned from the University of Natal media campaign.