The psychological turn in higher education and the new taxonomy of attitudes and emotions: Denmark as a case study

Laura Louise Sarauw, Søren Smedegaard Ernst Bengtsen, Ourania Filippakou

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


Everyday use of the concept of ‘well-being’ usually refers to happiness and health and often these terms are used interchangably in the public domain (Layard, 2005; Oxford English Dictionary, 2022). For OECD (2004) and later in higher education policy discourse, wellbeing refers to to life satisfaction, quality of life and sustainability. This article analyses the increased concern with students’ well-being in higher education as a mode of governance that goes hand in hand with new mechanisms of exclusion. Focusing on a new student survey in Denmark, which measures students’ well-being, we show how the well-being agenda is entangled with a new ‘taxonomy of attitudes and emotions’ that align with neoliberal ideals about the self-efficient and self-governing individual. Implied is a notion of learning as a smooth and effortless process, which may lead to individualisation of structural and pedagogical challenges. With particular although not exclusive reference to the Danish case, we suggest that these new entanglements between well-being and leaning represent a narrowing view on the role and purpose of higher education, which devaluates the educational value of of doubt, bewilderment and moments of uncertainty (Aaen, 2019; Dall’Alba and Bengtsen, 2019). Paradoxically, the well-being agenda may therefore lead to the pathologisation of students who struggle while at the same time eroding the language for critique.
TidsskriftPolicy Futures in Education
Sider (fra-til)1
Antal sider20
StatusE-pub ahead of print - 30 mar. 2023


  • Higher Education
  • Governance
  • Quality assessment
  • Students
  • Student Engagement

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