Co-constructing critical change: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of the lived experience of Education Studies Students in a neoliberal world

A range of studies have discussed the impact of neoliberalism on education, both at school and university level. Through its advocation for the privatization of public goods and services, we have seen the rise of schools as “businesses”, an increased focus on competition, a narrowing of the curriculum that informs a more functionalist approach to education, and increased testing and accountability measures leading to technological solutionism and the datafication of learners. In an era of massification in higher education, universities are not immune to these changes, particularly when considering the impact of fees and the rise of both consumerism and market-based solutions. However, fewer studies have explored the impact of these changes on notions of studentship and the student experience. This study explores how neoliberalism impacts the lives of Education Studies students at a UK university in the West Midlands, particularly in relation to their studies and their university experience. This study utilizes an interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) framework involving focus groups and lecturer field notes to develop a deeper understanding of students’ lived experience as neoliberal subjects, how lecturers perpetuate neoliberalism and what possibilities exist for alternative approaches to student provision within the confines of neoliberalism?