Discursive themes, silences, and contradictions on the democratic role of universities in Iceland.

Valgerður S. Bjarnadóttir, Anna Ólafsdóttir, Guðrún Geirsdóttir


The aim of this paper is to explore whether and how discourses in Icelandic public policy documents reflect a) the democratic role of universities and b) universities’ role in preparing students for responsible participation in a democratic society. Key policy documents related to Icelandic universities were analysed. The documents present university policy on three levels; a) the current official policy presented by the national authorities, b) the current policy of individual universities, and c) the most recent annual reports published by each university. These three levels were selected to explore the topic from the stage of formal policy making, to the purposes each university has defined for itself, and to reported actions in the institutions that adhere to the policy. In sum, the findings indicate a lack of conceptualisation of the democratic role of universities in official policies. While the university institutions report on current themes in the international discourse, vaguely related to the critical public and civic role of universities, quality and competitiveness are central discursive themes, obscuring discourses on the democratic role.


Universities; democracy; democratic role of universities; discourse-analysis.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.13177/irpa.a.2019.15.2.3


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