Rebranding the Student Experience

warwick uni ltd

Yesterday, the Warwick Marketing Team published a new article on their latest branding endeavours, aimed at presenting a refreshed and marketable image of the core values that constitute ‘the Warwick way’, and that “truly reflects who we are and where we want to be.”

Even for a Warwick piece, the rhetoric was surprisingly unabashed in its overt fetishism of the consumer society, reminding us casually that we are, in essence, products to be branded and sold off to what Warwick terms its “key stakeholders”.

As vomit-inducing as this may be, the article does provide us a beautiful example of the respect in which the logic of privatization is an integral element of the publicity drive that Warwick champions. The attempt to consolidate the diverse and multitudinous values and experiences that each of us develop during our time at Warwick into the single, somewhat exhibitionistic “core-narrative” of the “Warwick story”, is as eminently marketable for its accessible label as it is farcically bleak for its homogenizing libel. And yet, our personal experiences and identities are being advertised as commodities to be slotted within the wholesale market experience of the new ‘Warwick story’ to which we all, apparently, are supposed to be contributing. “It’s not optional”, we’re reminded.

And so, the discourse surrounding the genuinely unique characteristics of Warwick students condenses into economic buzzwords and taglines such as “making it easier to tell [or should that be “sell”?] our story”, which, ironically, serve to displace and delegitimize the existing identities and narratives that aren’t adequately captured by the pithy branding.

In essence, the conveyor belt of the marketized university rolls on, packaging its students into the conformist identity of the investment-produce. Those who, for some reason, aren’t able or willing to embody and articulate the narrative associated with this produce are offered “surgery”, because apparently being unable to “attract business partners and policymakers” justifies a medical intervention in the eyes of Warwick University.

This type of aggressive branding is precisely why it’s so important that we, as people, students, activists and free thinkers must rail against the imposition of logics that would demean, and diminish us. We are not merely products to be grouped and stacked on shelves, to be auctioned off to business partners and policy makers. We are not to be confined within the market logic of publicity, any more than we are to be captured within the bureaucratic confines of the privatized university. It is our role to challenge, and to dissent against such alienation, so that, through our communities, through our discourse, and through our actions, we may come to embody everything that the obedience academy denies us.

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