Dennis, June (2021) A level playing field? Seeking a collaborative academic partnership between an alternative provider of higher education and an English university – an autoethnography. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This research was undertaken while I was principal of an alternative provider of higher education in England - ‘The College’. It focuses on my experience of seeking and establishing a collaborative academic partnership with an English university to offer degree-level provision to students. It is a highly personalised account, using analytic autoethnography to chronicle the events over a nineteen-month period. I analyse this through the application of Bourdieu’s concepts of field, capital, and habitus.

The data identifies the challenges that one institution experienced in seeking a partnership. It also recognises the challenges I faced as someone new to the institution and the alternative provider sector having worked in the mainstream university sector for over 15 years previously. The study demonstrates that despite rhetoric about establishing a level playing field in the English higher education sector, it was still very difficult for the institution to establish a collaborative academic partnership with the dominant players (universities) in the field. It concludes with a consideration of the potential implications for policy and practice that this study uncovers.

This study is the first to consider collaborative academic partnerships from an alternative provider perspective, particularly in relation to how the power of the dominant subfield shapes and influences the relationship between the two parties. It also demonstrates the versatility of Bourdieu’s concepts of field, capital, and habitus in being applied as a framework for an analytic autoethnography.

Dennis THESIS.pdf - Accepted Version
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