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Mapping mental health and the UK university sector: Networks, markets, data

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Publication details

JournalCritical Social Policy
DateAccepted/In press - 20 May 2021
DatePublished (current) - 16 Aug 2021
Original languageEnglish


The mental health and well-being of university staff and students in the UK are reported to have seriously deteriorated. Rather than taking this ‘mental health crisis’ at face value, we carry out network and discourse analyses to investigate the policy assemblages (comprising social actors, institutions, technologies, knowledges and discourses) through which the ‘crisis' is addressed. Our analysis shows how knowledges from positive psychology and behavioural economics, disciplinary techniques driven by metrics and data analytics, and growing markets in digital therapeutic technologies work as an ensemble. Together, they instrumentalise mental health, creating motivational ecologies that allow economic agendas to seep through to subjects who are encouraged to monitor and rehabilitate themselves. Mental health’ as a problem for UK universities has come to be largely defined through the outcomes of ‘resilience’ and ‘employability’ and is addressed through markets that enable training, monitoring, measuring and ‘nudging’ students and staff towards these outcomes.

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© The Author(s) 2021

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