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Students as 'Animal Laborans'? Tracing Student Politics in a Marketised Higher Education Setting

Raaper, R. (2021) 'Students as 'Animal Laborans'? Tracing Student Politics in a Marketised Higher Education Setting.', Sociological research online., 26 (1). pp. 130-146.


This article examines the widespread policy discourses that have constructed the notion of student as consumer in English higher education, and it questions the implications of such fabrications on students’ political engagement. In particular, it explores the extent to which students have been forced into a position of an ‘animal laboran’ whose primary function is to focus on immediate necessities in highly pressurised university environments. By drawing on Arendt, the article will first consider the shift towards representative practices in student politics, characterised by professionalisation of students’ unions. Second, the article will draw on Foucault to investigate the ways in which more personalised forms of students’ political participation related to private interest and single-issue campaigns can emerge in neoliberalised universities and society more broadly.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
Date accepted:03 August 2020
Date deposited:15 September 2020
Date of first online publication:15 September 2020
Date first made open access:15 September 2020

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