Over recent decades, national Higher Education sectors across the world have experienced a gradual process of marketisation.
This book offers a new interpretation on why and how marketisation has taken place within England. It explores distinct assumptions on the nature of graduate work and how the graduate labour market drives the argumentation for more market and choice. Demonstrating the flaws in these assumptions – which are based on an idealised relationship between Higher Education and high-skilled work – this book fills an important need by questioning the current rationale for further marketisation.
This chapter introduces the book. It outlines the key objective, which is to explain how the understanding of work and the labour market actively shaped the arguments used to support marketisation in England. It also provides a policy context in which marketisation has taken place. The chapter ends by setting out the structure of the rest of the book.
This chapter provides the context for the analysis. It explains how marketisation has penetrated the modern higher education (HE) system. It distinguishes three key dimensions of marketisation that are particularly relevant for the book. These are user-pay finance, managerialism and commodification. It demonstrates how these processes increased the role of markets, choice and competition in the provision of HE. It also elucidates the role of the state in marketisation.
This chapter focuses on how the role of education in the economy is understood. Here it outlines distinct assumptions on the importance of university graduates within the modern economy, inspired by the idea of the knowledge-based economy. It demonstrates that the ideological adherence to this ideal emphasises the need for higher education (HE) expansion and later on the importance of inserting the right type of graduate skills in the labour market to achieve economic prosperity. A problematisation of whether HE was able to develop the right skills was salient to make a case for further marketisation
This chapter examines how the role of education in work and the labour market is understood. It shows that the policy documents presume the skills employers demand can be developed in higher education (HE). Yet universities are increasingly held to task to support the economy, adjusting to employer skills demand and ensuring the work-readiness of students. Employers, students and the state were thought to have a shared interest in making HE more attuned to the economy’s needs. The importance of market competition to improve the quality of HE and the employability of its graduates was seen as desirable.
This chapter demonstrates the reliance on Human Capital Theories (HCT) to understand the graduate labour market within higher education (HE) policy discourse. The theory’s expected relationship between education, skills and rewards policy justify marketisation in HE. The market for HE provision is seen as directly linked to labour market outcomes. The skills that employers need are closely aligned to the skills that universities teach. Marketisation makes sense if students are responsible for their labour market outcomes as well to ensure optimal human capital investment.
This chapter investigates how well the narrative of the knowledge-based society holds up. Here it finds that some key characteristics of contemporary Anglo-Saxon capitalism contradict how the knowledge-based economy was initially thought of. The greater use of technology may not necessarily reward graduate workers. Also, many so-called knowledge workers do not have strong labour market power as often has been assumed. As a result, graduate workers are misunderstood in terms of their expected status and earnings but also within their role in economic development.
This chapter examines some of the evidence of the nature of modern graduate work. It will demonstrate that the role higher education (HE) plays in skill development has been overstated. The employer demand for graduates is much wider than merely their human capital developed at HE. Many graduates face difficulties in capitalising on their skills and knowledge. This is reflected in the research on overqualification and skill utilisation. Also, the employer demand for degrees may substantially lie in the value of qualifications as a sifting mechanism within the graduate labour market.
This chapter examines graduate earnings. It highlights the unequal earning distribution within the graduate labour market and challenges the idea that earnings accurately reflect human capital investment or even perceived productivity. Here it expands on some non-educational factors that fundamentally shape earnings within the graduate labour market.
This chapter reflects why marketisation in higher education is so hard to reverse. It warns that one of the problems in changing the current drive for more marketisation is that many of the assumptions on graduate labour are shared by other policy and political projects. The chapter deals with three of them. These are: the idea of an education-based meritocracy; employability as means of individual empowerment and responsibility; and the reliance on Human Capital Theory within economic, social and educational policies. The chapter demonstrates that each is problematic in its own right.