Discursive Marketisation and Differentiation in Nigerian University Websites

Discursive Marketisation and Differentiation in Nigerian University Websites

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-8122-6.ch002
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This chapter drew samples from websites of twenty-four purposively selected universities in Nigeria. The data were interpreted drawing insights from critical discourse analytic approach and systemic functional linguistics and Roper and Parker's presentation of the theoretical paradigms of branding. The study found that universities based their marketisation and differentiation on the maximization and foregrounding of the environment, prominence, achievements, products, institutional integrity, and transformation. The study concluded that the engagement of these issues has brought about a healthy competition among the universities in Nigeria and transformation in marketization of universities in the country.
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The digital age has continued to foster increased access to information through online resources. Virtually every enterprise has gone online to ensure visibility and spread of information about what they do and how people can connect with them. Educational institutions are not left out of this attention economy and race for marketisation. Higher institutions have gone online and many of their activities with the major stakeholders are conducted online. Of great importance to this study is the increase in the discursive means of marketing these higher institutions and projecting differentiation among them within the online spaces.

Scholars have always linked the increase in online activities by higher institutions to the tremendous growth in the demand for higher education (Akpotu & Akpochafu, 2017). To meet this demand, especially in Nigeria, several higher institutions are being established by both the government and private organisations. The increase in the number of universities has naturally brought about strategic marketing efforts by these institutions through brand marketing (Mogaji et al, 2020), sloganeering (Ayinuola & Francis, 2021, Farinloye, et al, 2021), formulation of clear vision and mission statements (Ashiru & Oludare, 2015; Efe & Ozer, 2015) and creation of strong institutional identities (Wayne, et al., 2020), for instance through About us texts on their websites (Xiong & Li, 2021) in order to compete favorably for patronage. .

In running higher education in contemporary times, values placed on a number of issues, such as good learning resources, conducive learning environment, research opportunities, stronger lecturer-student relationship, institutional ranking, running courses that are in high demand, manageable class size, ease of gaining admission, stable academic calendar, etc., are foregrounded in the marketisation and differentiation drives among higher institutions globally. As noted by Fairclough (1993), there is an increase in the marketisation of discursive practices of higher institutions, especially, universities globally and the basis for this is the competition that has increased as a result of more stakeholders.

Therefore, university branding and marketisation can be situated within the domain of promotional discourse where language is used to appeal to the public to show interests in certain products and services. Just as the language of promotional texts is persuasive and convincing, universities take the bold step in using captivating, convincing and forceful language to sell themselves to the public in an increasingly more competitive market for tertiary education as can be seen in the promotional texts used by Nigerian universities to lure students and parents to patronize them.

While the notion of branding and marketisation of higher institutions has become a focus of studies for scholars globally across disciplines in communication, marketing, education and sociology, scholars in discourse studies have shown specific interest in the construction of these promotional and marketised discourses. In spite of the relative extensive studies on branding, marketisation and identity construction of higher education across the globe, discursive construction of academic identities of higher educational institutions in Nigeria has not been sufficiently explored. With the growth in the number of universities in Nigeria, the competition for patronage, various attempts at brand building and repositioning for relevance through deliberate discursive means, this study becomes imperative. This study therefore investigates marketization and differentiation through Nigerian university websites. The objectives of the study are to (i) identify the discursive tropes employed by Nigerian universities for marketisation and differentiation for branding; (ii) analyse the discursive tropes and their linguistic indexifiers, and (iii) relate them to the Nigerian socio-cultural and educational contexts.

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