We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham Research Online
You are in:

Constructing political subjectivity : the perspectives of sabbatical officers from English Students’ Unions.

Raaper, Rille (2020) 'Constructing political subjectivity : the perspectives of sabbatical officers from English Students’ Unions.', Higher education., 79 (1). pp. 141-157.


Informed by policy sociology and a Foucauldian theorisation, this article explores how a selection of sabbatical officers from English students’ unions formed their political subjectivity during the policy consultation processes leading to the Higher Education and Research Act 2017. Discourse analysis demonstrated a strong influence of the unions’ professional staff members and the National Union of Students on sabbatical officers’ work. In particular, they guided the officers in writing a response to the Government consultation document and lobbying politicians. These actions indicated that the sabbatical officers’ political subjectivity was highly dependent on professional actors and discourses. The shift towards professionalisation, however, received diverse responses from participants. Some perceived it as leading to necessary policy amendments; others were concerned about wider depoliticisation of their role and student movement. The article suggests that the sabbatical officers interviewed operated within a complex network of competing interests, raising questions about (1) whose political agency they enacted and (2) their future opportunities to successfully unite and challenge higher education policy in neoliberal times.

Item Type:Article
Full text:Publisher-imposed embargo
(AM) Accepted Manuscript
File format - PDF
Full text:(VoR) Version of Record
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution.
Download PDF (Advance online version)
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Date accepted:01 May 2019
Date deposited:09 May 2019
Date of first online publication:14 May 2019
Date first made open access:15 May 2019

Save or Share this output

Look up in GoogleScholar