Poster Presentation Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Picturing graduate capabilities – using visual methodology to trace changes in the use of images of students used in higher education marketing materials (#323)

Elizabeth Knight 1
  1. Monash University, Elwood, VIC, Australia

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

 This poster presentation seeks to answer the question how has the way universities use images of their students and graduates in marketing materials changed? It poses this question to illuminate the development of the construction of graduate capabilities by Australian and by British institutions within the period of massification between 1976-2013.

The marketing materials of universities used for student undergraduate institution choice are in focus in this poster presentation, drawn from the researcher’s PhD work, which traces the development of the discourse relating to the idea of a degree in the massification era within Australia and also within Britain. This research focuses on the texts in the handbooks and prospectuses produced by selected institutions in each country between the mid-1970s and the present day.

In the collection of materials for the main thesis, the image-choice of the prospectuses was also noted as telling its own story and the choice of images in marketing materials is a topic of study.

Metcalfe argues that the set of research tools used in the sociology of higher education “exemplifies a tendency toward positivist methods and presumptions” (2012:517) and exhorts researchers to consider other methods, particularly those involving image-based media, such as visual sociology and visual discourse analysis.

Following her guide, and working within the frame of Hartley & Morphew (2008) who produced an in-depth study of the visual in college viewbooks, this poster will highlight the changes in the images of students used in the past 40 years in Australia and in Britain. In doing so, the poster will reproduce representations of key images which provide a narrative of changing concepts of university students, and how these changes interact with the development over the period of the constructed notion of graduate capabilities. 

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)

 This poster sits within the conference sub-theme of “assessing, evidencing and evaluating graduate capabilities”, through its use of innovative methodologies to enhance understanding of how the construction of the notion of graduate capabilities has been visually developed by Australian and by British institutions in the past 40 years.

  1. Hartley, J. M., & Morphew, C. (2008). What's being sold and to what end? A content analysis of college viewbooks. Journal of Higher Education 79(6), 671-691.
  2. Metcalfe, A. S. (2012). Imag(in)ing the university: Visual sociology and higher education. Review of Higher Education, 35(4), 517-534.