Dr Jane Mulderrig

Senior Lecturer in Applied Linguistics, Director of International Affairs


Jessop West
1 Upper Hanover Street
S3 7RA


I’m a senior lecturer in Applied Linguistics and Director of International Affairs for the School of English.

I joined the department in 2010 after holding postdoctoral positions at the Universities of Lancaster (ESRC postdoctoral fellowship) and Edinburgh, following a PhD at Lancaster University (ESRC doctoral studentship) under the supervision of Profs Norman Fairclough and Ruth Wodak.


My main research interest is in using critical discourse analysis in combination with political theory to investigate questions of identity, power, and representation in public life. In particular, I am interested in the strategic role of (national) policy discourse in recontextualising, disseminating and legitimating dominant political ideologies in advanced liberal economies. I have used my interdisciplinary approach to investigate the historic neoliberalisation of UK education policy; governments’ increasing use of ‘nudge’ tactics to steer citizens towards self-reliance; and discourses which construct a ‘social burden’ view of ageing.

Research project 1 (2001-) Language and ideology in education policy

My doctoral research developed a method of combining critical discourse analysis with corpus linguistic tools to analyse a 35-year corpus of education policy documents. Language patterns were critically interpreted in relation to the emergence of neoliberalism, using cultural political economy (Jessop). I investigated how policy discourse is used to construct and legitimate neoliberal identities, roles and power relations between citizen and state. My publications posit the role of nested grammatical structures in construing a ‘networked’ or ‘enabling’ model of governance and the role of personal pronouns as a hegemonic strategy in policy. I continue to draw on this method, for example to investigate the increasing use of metrics to evaluate quality in higher education. External funding: ESRC PhD scholarship (£34,000 + fees); ESRC postdoctoral fellowship (£58,000)

Research project 2 (2010-) What is old? Language, society, and ageing

This project examines the linguistic processes whereby population ageing is problematized in public life and their influence on how individuals construct their own ageing identities. A corpus analysis found that the concept of ‘ageing’ is represented as a phenomenon which is to be feared, a burden on society, and an economic challenge for nation states. These ideas were then explored in an intergenerational project ‘What is Old?’ with school pupils and residents of sheltered housing schemes in Sheffield. Arts and crafts were used as a medium through which to challenge ‘official’ constructions of old age. Funding: Arts Enterprise grant (£3000).

Research project 3 (2014-) ‘Nudge’ and the language of soft power

Neoliberal governments are making increasing use of ‘nudge’ tactics in public life, designed to subtly steer citizens towards taking greater responsibility for their own wellbeing. This project is the first investigation of how this governance tactic is realised in language. My publications explore its realisation in health policy and bring multimodal critical discourse analysis into dialogue with Foucauldian theories of governmentality.

Research project 4 (2018-) Defining Freedom of the Press

In the wake of recent scandals concerning the conduct of the UK press, this project investigates the tensions between freedom of the press and press ethics. It brings together an interdisciplinary team from journalism (Dr John Steel, Prof Martin Conboy, Sheffield; Dr Julie Firmstone, Leeds), law (Dr Paul Wragg, Leeds), philosophy (Dr Carl Fox, Leeds; Dr Joe Saunders, Durham) and linguistics (Dr Jane Mulderrig) in order to investigate how the press, its public roles and responsibilities are defined in 13 European countries. The project combines documentary analysis, interviews, focus groups and stakeholder workshops, and seeks to develop a set of recommendations and benchmarks for freedom of the press which are fit for the modern news environment. External funding: AHRC (£500,000). Defining Freedom of the Press project website

I convene the Sheffield Critical Discourse Studies Research group bringing together scholars in CDA from across the region ('SCADS'). 


At undergraduate level, I teach 'Discourse Analysis' and 'Corpus Linguistics'. On the MA in Applied Linguistics, I teach 'English Grammar and Discourse', 'Discourse and Genre Analysis', 'Corpus Linguistics', 'Intercultural Communication', and 'Research Methods'.


I currently supervise in the area of critical discourse analysis applied to the investigation of political campaigns, public policy, and politics. I welcome PhD applicants who wish to undertake critical, interdisciplinary research on questions of language, ideology and identity in public life.

My students include:

  • Lucie Rees (WRoCAH scholarship): Critical discourse analysis of anti-stigma campaigns in UK mental health policy
  • Nouf Alotaibi: A Critical discourse analysis of the Saudi women's campaign against the male-guardianship system on social media
  • Emma LeVine: Corpus-based critical discourse analysis of the political texts of the UK Independence Party, 1993-2015.
  • Rosa Escanes Sierra (ESRC scholarship): Discourses of morality in UK parliamentary discourses of the economic crisis: a corpus-aided critical discourse analysis
  • Bridie Moore (now lecturer at Huddersfield University): The performance of age and ageing in contemporary British theatre (second supervisor)


  • Mulderrig, J. Critical Policy Discourse Analysis, Edward Elgar (with Farrelly, M. and Montessori, N), due 2019
  • Mulderrig, J. (2009) The Language of Education Policy: from Thatcher to Blair, Saarbucken: VDM
Journal articles
  • Mulderrig, J. (2018a) ‘Multimodal strategies of emotional governance: a critical analysis of ‘nudge’ tactics in health policy’, Critical Discourse Studies Vol 15, Issue 1, pp. 39-67
  • Mulderrig, J. (2018b) ‘Nudge and the politics of wellbeing: bringing biopower into dialogue with critical discourse analysis’, MEI: Information et Mediation, Issue 42 ‘Sante Publique et Communication’, pp. 181-194
  • Mulderrig, J. (2017) ‘The language of ‘nudge’ in health policy: pre-empting working class obesity through biopedagogy’, Critical Policy Studies DOI: DOI: 10.1080/19460171.2017.1398672
  • Mulderrig, J. (2016) ‘Reframing Obesity: a Critical Discourse Analysis of the UK’s first Social Marketing Campaign’, Critical Policy Studies Vol 11, Issue 4, pp. 455-476
  • Mulderrig, J. (2011) ‘The Grammar of Governance’, Critical Discourse Studies 8(1) 45-68.
  • Mulderrig, J. (2011) ‘Manufacturing Consent: a corpus-based critical discourse analysis of New Labour’s educational governance’, Journal of Educational Philosophy and Theory, 43 (6)
  • Mulderrig, J. (2009) The Language of Education Policy: from Thatcher to Blair Saarbucken: VDM Dr Muller Verlag ISBN 3639184890
  • Mulderrig, J. (2003) ‘Learning to Labour: the discursive construction of social actors in New Labour's education policy’, Merle Tönnies (ed.): Britain under Blair, special edition of Anglistik & Englischunterricht (65)123-145, Heidelberg: Winter Verlag
  • Mulderrig, J. (2003) ‘Consuming Education: a critical discourse analysis of social actors in New Labour’s education policy’, Journal of Critical Education Policy Studies, Vol. 1 No. 1
Book chapters
  • Mulderrig, J. (forthcoming) ‘Nudge, obesity, and the rise of psychological governance: bringing governmentality into dialogue with critical discourse analysis’, in Montessori, N., Farrelly, M., Mulderrig, J. (Eds.) Critical Policy Discourse Analysis, Edward Elgar
  • Mulderrig, J., Montessori, N., Farrelly, M. (forthcoming) ‘Introducing critical policy discourse analysis’, in Montessori, N., Farrelly, M., Mulderrig, J. (Eds.) Critical Policy Discourse Analysis, Edward Elgar
  • Mulderrig, J. (2015) ‘‘Enabling’ participatory governance in education: a corpus-based critical policy analysis’, Smyers, P., Bridges, D., Burbules, N., Griffiths, M. (Eds) International Handbook of Interpretation in Educational Research, Springer pp 441-470
  • Fairclough, N., Mulderrig, J., Wodak, R. (2011) ‘Critical Discourse Analysis’, in Van Dijk, T (ed.) Discourse Studies: a multidisciplinary introduction, London: Sage
  • Mulderrig, J. (2008) ‘Using Keywords Analysis in CDA: evolving discourses of the knowledge economy in education’, in Jessop, B., Fairclough, N., and Wodak, R. (eds.) Education and the Knowledge-Based Economy in Europe Rotterdam: Sense Publishers, pp 149-170
  • Mulderrig, J. (2007) ‘Textual Strategies of Representation and Legitimation in New Labour Policy Discourse’, in A. Green, G. Rikowski, and H. Raduntz (eds.): Renewing Dialogues in Marxism and Education, Palgrave Macmillan pp 135-150
Commissioned reports
  • (2007) Report of a Feasibility Study into setting up a Scottish Centre for Research on Equality and Human Rights, Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh.
  • (2007) Equalities and Human Rights: key concepts and issues, Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh.
  • (2007) Policy Review: equalities and human rights, Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh.
  • (2007) Digest of Research on Equalities, Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh.
  • (2007)Consultation to Support the University of Edinburgh’s Gender Equality Scheme Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh
  • (2007) Consultation to Inform the University of Edinburgh’s Disability Equality Scheme Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh
  • (2006) Educating Children from Armed Forces Families in Scottish Schools: the implications of interrupted learning for children, schools and communities Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh
  • (2006) Literature Review of Educational Provision for Pupils with Additional Support Needs: final report to the Scottish Executive Education Department, Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh
Articles available to download

You can also download my papers here