Jess Butler

PhD student


I am an AHRC-funded PhD student split between the Centre for Gender and Women's Studies, Department of Sociology, and Department of Educational Research, Lancaster University, in conjunction with the North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership. Working title: Competition culture and discourses of success and failure in contemporary English higher education – gendered constructions of ‘ideal’ academics and their impact on academic staff.This research draws upon my experience of both working and studying in HE for the last 10 years and pulls together theory from a range of disciplines with empirical data to, I hope, produce a thesis that is interdisciplinary, intersectional, and straddles the border between the humanities and the social sciences without losing its balance.My project aims to discover in what academic activities, policies, and related literature a culture of competition, and its surrounding discourses of success, winning, and failure, manifest, and how. It investigates whether an ‘ideal’ academic, or multiple ideals, emerges from this, considering in what ways these are gendered constructions, and to what extent images of the ideal are internalised or resisted by individual academics. What is the personal and professional impact of negotiating any disparity between the perceived ideal and subjective identities, values, and aptitudes? My research considers what these questions can offer to wider discussions of inequality in higher education and its potential remedies.