“The Influence of Employability in Higher Education Institutions” ”Beskæftigelsesegnetheds Indflydelse på Videregående Uddannelsesinstitutioner”
(STREET ART UTOPIA, 2012) European Masters in Lifelong Learning: Policy and Management Department of Education, Aarhus University Academic Years: 2011-2013
Supervisor: Assistant Professor Jesper Eckhardt Larsen Written exam between 192,000 and 240,000 characters (232,476 used)
Student: Anders Martinsen (20053462)
I am immensely grateful to Assistant Professor Jesper Eckhardt Larsen, who helped me through the development of this thesis. His broad academic knowledge, commitment, professionalism and friendliness have created a huge excellent, inspiring and educational experience which has been a real asset in my academic life.
I also want to thank Associate Professor Stavros Moutsios, whose educational lectures during this course triggered my curiosity and interest in higher education institutions.
Additionally, I would also like to thank Carlos Vargas Tamez for his help during my stay at Deusto University, as well taking his time to help me during the writing of this thesis. His comments on related work have also stretched my thinking about the issue in this thesis.
Last but not least, I would like to thank my better half, my family and my friends who in various ways have helped me in this process. I hope you forgive me for my absence that the completion of this thesis has required.
Summary This thesis will show how employability has influenced higher education institutions. We are now witnessing how a specific focus around employability is increasingly becoming a focal point of higher education institutions and in that sense contributes to a change of purpose. There has been a tendency to look separately at education and research in higher education, but to get comprehensive overview of higher education institutions these cannot be disassembled. Consequently, this thesis will explore how the current understanding of employability has had an impact on both education and research in higher education institutions. With the use of document analysis this thesis describes the history of employability, as well as its following definitions and discourses. Here it is portrayed how a changing focus of employability has been extended to those entering the job market from higher education institutions. Similarly, it has also had a following impact on higher education institutions per se in such a way that the purpose can be said to have changed. The focus of higher education has thus shifted to what the industry demands. Where previously knowledge and personal development were highest on the list, labour market relevance is today the recurring mantra. All in all, this has to do with the focus around employability, which has become a notion that portrays the economic and political times in which we live. Higher education institutions are now very focused on being an investment in a business aspect rather than a nation aspect. The technocratic planning and management of education and research are tightened progressively, and education and research are now seen primarily as a means to mobilize the country's economic competitiveness. Qualities in education and research are measured primarily in terms of its value to the business, while its human and democratic qualities in relation to the personal formation, active citizenship and critical thinking are taken for granted and not a main concern. Consequently, this thesis elaborates further on the aspects of quality in higher education institutions and presents another view. This thesis also emphasizes, that there in recent decades has been a gradual paradigm shift in the form of persuasion of the individual to investment in human capital. The rationale behind this paradigm shift is the market dominated globalization that has increased the pressure on individual countries to transform all aspects of society to the new competitive world market. When there is such a strong focus on human capital and other capitals are pushed aside, this thesis shows how
the idea of employability is pushed in that direction. By doing this, the responsibility is also changed from being within the state to the individual itself. Concretely, we are now seeing that the most influential description currently on offer to account for the relationship between education and employment is the human capital theory. However, this thesis will show that the employability discourse is a one-way gaze with truth claims that problematise the capital of students while leaving the social and identity capital and employment practices of employers untouched. There is no doubt that there is a massive labour market orientation taking place everywhere in the Western world. That said, this thesis will with a case-study of the new Accreditation Law in Denmark show that there is an extremely one-sided market-oriented line, which otherwise is only one of the four objectives of the common European Bologna Process. This political focus on the labour market relevance has resulted in a negative unification of education. The new curricula thereby marks a new way of designing and thinking about education that is compromising with the quality. Consequently, this thesis considers a way of thinking about the various forms of capital and capabilities as a possibility to come up with a model to engage in the issues of employability. There is absolutely nothing wrong in educating students for the labour market. However, there is a need to question whether society needs education, but also research, as defined by narrow commercial interests or universities instead need to be more independent of the market. In relation to research in higher education institutions, this thesis shows how reliable and wellfounded knowledge no longer are regarded as the main objective. Instead, these terms has in the present knowledge system become integrated in an equal respect to the social, political and economic relevance. With the central role that knowledge and knowledge policy has received in society, research is now being applied more to the markets, as well as many stakeholders now have a strong interest in science. All in all, this is a shift from meritocratic rules to market rules of selection. Accordingly, this section will provide an opportunity to focus on a different model with a strong labour market oriented view of employability in higher education institutions â€“ more specifically the Triple Helix model.
The core problem with the major focus on employability in higher education institutions is the misunderstanding of quality and relevance - especially in Denmark. For this reason, the focus
should rather be on how to redefine quality and relevance of the universities and higher education institutions per se so it does not have the significant market oriented quality focus. Discussing the abovementioned issues of how employability has influenced higher education institutions, this thesis will with the use of capitals, capabilities and the ideas behind the Triple Helix model come up with another view of higher education. This view is not predominantly focussed on the market influence of employability, but addresses both societal needs, the expectations of all stakeholders and has a long-term nation vision rather than a short-term business vision.
Table of Contents Summary.............................................................................................................................................ii 1.
Introduction .................................................................................................................................. 2
Methodology and Theory ............................................................................................................. 8
Employability .............................................................................................................................. 14 3.1.
History of Employability ...................................................................................................... 14
Definitions of Employability ................................................................................................ 17
Quality in Higher Education Institutions ............................................................................. 20
Stakeholders in Employability ............................................................................................. 24
Neo-liberalism and Human Capital ..................................................................................... 27
The Bologna Process............................................................................................................ 31
Employability Research ....................................................................................................... 34
Dilemmas and Consequences for Employability ................................................................. 40
Demand-side and Supply-side ............................................................................................. 44
The Role of Employability in Denmark ............................................................................ 45
3.10.1. Accreditation Law 2013 ............................................................................................... 49 3.11.
An Alternative Model for Employability .......................................................................... 54
3.11.1. Capitals ......................................................................................................................... 55 3.11.2. Capabilities ................................................................................................................... 62 3.12.
Summary of Employability ............................................................................................... 64
3.12.1. Future Challenges for Skills .......................................................................................... 65 3.12.2. Prodigal Academic Freedom ........................................................................................ 66 3.12.3. Final Remarks on Employability ................................................................................... 68 4.
The Future of Universities .......................................................................................................... 70 4.1.
Modes of Knowledge Production Systems.......................................................................... 72
The Triple Helix Model ........................................................................................................ 75
Triple Helix Relationships ............................................................................................. 76
Models of Relationships ............................................................................................... 77
Modes and the Triple Helix Model............................................................................... 80
Summary of Mode 2 and the Triple Helix Model ................................................................ 82
Conclusions and Reflections ....................................................................................................... 84
Bibliography ................................................................................................................................ 95
1. Introduction Employability has become a key word in recent years, especially in higher education and their following policies. The knowledge, which among other things can be acquired in universities, is now designated as a growth-enhancing product, and along with this, there is now even more focus on the acquisition and the need for competencies1 and skills. This thesis will show that a large majority of these skills and competencies are focused on a certain impetus for employability and therefore on a specific conceptualisation of quality, but also relevance, of higher education institutions. In addition, there has also been a tendency to look separately at education and research in higher education. Although there will be more focus on education in this thesis, I am of the belief that these as such cannot be disassembled if a comprehensive overview of higher education institutions is wanted. Consequently, this thesis will additionally explore how the current understanding of employability has had an impact on research in higher education institutions.
I wish to find out to what extent and how the increasing demand for and focus on employability has had an effect on higher education institutions as well as students and graduates. As I believe, there has been a huge focus on employability, when attending higher education, that it more becomes a question of getting a piece of ‘paper’ as fast as possible, so the graduates can get a job, rather than immersing in their studies. The students are in the same breath asked to rush through their studies, so they can join the world of works, and therefore do not have the necessary time for contemplation. This gives a somewhat mixed feeling, since the employers still want to have well-qualified employees. It seems as people take an education, since that is what you do and we may therefore also talk about an issue of inflation. Is it just the norm or do students really want to undertake a higher education, and what are their goals when attending higher education? With a question like this, the idea and reason for higher education institutions has certainly been in limbo. There is no doubt that a massive labour market orientation takes place throughout the Western world. This is especially evident with the university reforms, particularly in Denmark, which is dominated by a very narrow view of what it means for higher education to be orientated at 1
Due to language differences in the various references, there will in this thesis be made a distinction between ‘competence’ and ‘competency’ as what you have and what is required for the job, respectively.
employability, and thus have a focus on being labour market orientated. But this focus is very specific and does not give time to go into depth with the academic material in such a way that the idea of higher education institutions becomes more to be a factory - a competence and skill factory, which specific stakeholders control. From examining various stakeholders around employability, it will in this thesis be demonstrated that particularly the industry has had a great power in this control. The picture on the front page describes exactly how the student on the ground can see his employability be shackled by the requirements of the industry. The industry has been able to express their views in such a way that it has had great impact on higher education and the graduates. My argument is that the position of knowledge as an intrinsic value has been abandoned, since the market has been given a strong position to define the skills to be acquired. Far from this area, we often hear about how we as consumers are caught in the struggle between sugar producers and politicians and the related neglecting danger of sugar due to good lobbying. Still, I think that one can draw a parallel from this to employability. The student and graduates are indeed in the same way falsely trapped in a persuaded necessity of focussing on higher education institutions’ sugar - employability.
I want to show that the term ‘employability’ has too much influence on higher education and that it overshadows academic immersion, but also that many definitions of employability are too narrow and consequently has potential consequences for society. In order to actualize and consolidate the above, this thesis will also show that there in Denmark is a continuing narrow understanding of employability in higher education institutions as a consequence of the new Accreditation Law, which is to be implemented later this year. Following this, I will additionally look into what consequences this has had for the future of universities. In this perspective, the first part of this thesis will focus on the educational, and hence individual, level of employability, whereas the second part will focus on the influence of employability within research. Moreover, a separate model will under each section be presented for discussion of employability – each of which relates to either the educational or the research aspects of higher education institutions. Read in conjunction the models will give reason for a new understanding of the purpose of higher education institutions that can solve both societal needs and individual expectations, but also have
a long-term nation vision, rather than just a short-term business visions that the current focus on employability pushes forward. This has resulted in the following research questions:
To what extent has the current thinking about employability as a whole, and more specifically in a Danish context, influenced the purpose of higher education institutions? and,
How can a new model do away with and provide an alternative to the contemporary focus around employability in higher education institutions?
I will first start off by defining the methodology and theory behind this thesis. The section will take point of departure in the methods and theories described by Kennet Lynggaard. His descriptions will give an insight to diverse methods, theory and different concept definitions and provide the possibility to review, analyse and discuss different notions of employability within higher education institutions in the following sections. In addition, this thesis will furthermore conduct a policy-analysis on which the theory and methodology presented by Simons, Olssen and Peters will be used. The subsequent section will first describe the history of employability, as well as its following definitions and discourses. Numerous different definitions of employability are to be found, but here I will focus on those definitions in different agencies relevant for the thesis. These definitions, confined to assessing Europe, also deal with a focus on quality in higher education institutions, which in turn can have different meanings depending on who and what is described. The section of quality will take point of departure in definitions and rationalizations by Lee Harvey and Diana Green. Here, issues of fitness for purpose, value for money and transformation will be addressed. To give a different aspect of quality in higher education institutions, the definitions by Ton Vroeijenstijn will be used and related to one another. A concluding review will combine these two and furthermore give rise to yet another definition. This thesis will describe five different stakeholders within employability in the form of universities, government and industry, but also the students and civil society at large. Models around these stakeholders will moreover be conducted in this thesis. With a focus on the different stakeholders, it is also necessary to look at the time we live in now and its dominant theories and discourses.
Explicitly, this will form the basis of aspects of neo-liberalism and human capital, as described by D. W. Livingstone and Philip Brown and Hugh Lauder, along with the subsequent Bologna Process, as these have had a major impact on higher education institutions. A review of previously conducted research on employability will allow, with the above, to fasten oneâ€™s eyes on the dilemmas and consequences of these policies. To give coherence in the thesis, the research selected has been carried out with relevance to the definitions of employability earlier portrayed. After describing the findings of the research, an analysis of this is further undertaken in a review of dilemmas and consequences for employability, as well as a discussion of the focus on the aspects of demand-side and supply-side. The above findings are actualized with a case-study of the new Accreditation Law in Denmark. Through an analysis, it is concluded that the interests of the industry has come into focus, and that consisting attention to employability is agreed, in the form of the special consideration that has been given to quality and relevance in higher education institutions. Thus, different stakeholders in higher education institutions are weighted higher than others, and given a position to define the skills to be acquired in order to be attractive in the world of works. Knowledge as an independent value has been abandoned, and the focus is too much on the labour market. Along this, I consider a way of thinking about the various forms of capital and capabilities as a possibility to come up with a model to engage in the issues of employability. The ideas behind this are described by Tom Schuller, John Bynner and Leon Fenstein and are based on the stakeholder aspect of the individual student and civil society at large. I am of the belief that we need a comprehensive approach to higher education, which also takes into account the social and personal aspects of function that represents the quality of life. It must be seen as a way to overcome - or at least strike a balance to - pervasive economic views of higher education. The model describes how we can solve both societal needs and individual expectations and gives a breeding ground for the understanding of employability to deal with these. This, furthermore, leads to a summary of employability with a focus on the future challenges for the notion of skills in employability. Lastly, a section concerning and discussing the prodigal academic freedom is conducted. Given an insight and analysis of the history and different definitions of employability, separate views of quality, stakeholders, the discourses surrounding us, research on employability, following
dilemmas and consequences, demand-side and supply-side, a case-study, a model around employability, future challenges for skills and academic freedom, the thesis moves on with a focus on how these notions and views can be related to the future of universities, as well as to the perception of a knowledge production system as such. More specific, the focus in this second part of the thesis will be on implication for research. In addition, this section will also discuss and define another model around employability.
With a focus on the future of universities, a review of the history of universities is undertaken. This brings us around the creation of knowledge from the subject academic, investigated and disciplined approach to a context-oriented, problem-focused and interdisciplinary approach. Here, the declinist and optimistic hypotheses of the future, as described by Henry Etzkowitz and Ben Martin, will be elaborated with a following description of threats and opportunities. In addition to this, a section of modes in the knowledge production system will follow. This section will be based on the statements from Michael Gibbons and related to those of Jan Faye and David Budtz Pedersen, as well as other writers will be brought to light when relevant. A review of this latter section will provide an opportunity to focus on a different model as a potential tool for discussion of employability in higher education institutions. The model described here is the Triple Helix model, as depicted by Henry Etzkowitz, which was developed and based on the need for innovation. Within this field, there is to a large extent focus on generic skills in the labour market, as these are sought after for innovation. The very same skills are also prominent for employability, and by pushing the need for innovation forward a labour market oriented view on employability is additionally pushed forward. For this reason, the model can show how there is a focus on employability and the related competencies. A review and analysis of the Triple Helix model will mostly be based on statements from writers in prior sections, and sub-sections describing the actual relationship in the model, in addition to attempts of other models, will give a basis for the Triple Helix argument. Following sub-section will then relate this to the earlier described modes of the knowledge production system. Contrastingly to the first part of the thesis, the stakeholders in this model are based on universities, industry and government, and thus give focus to the rest of the aforementioned stakeholders.
Together with analyses and discussions on employability, aspects from both models will be used and form the basis for finalising conclusions and reflections that do away with and provide an alternative to the contemporary and narrow focus on employability in higher education institutions and the following change of purpose.
2. Methodology and Theory This thesis is much characterized by the use of document analysis. At times, this kind of analysis can seem trite and a thorough description has not been easy to find. Various methods and theories have been reviewed, but not all have given the desired purpose. However, I have in the Danish book Kvalitative metoder: en grundbog (2010) found a really well-documented chapter on document analysis. Kennet Lynggaard, who is behind this chapter, and his ideas form the basis for the description of document analysis, as used in this thesis, in this section. In addition, this thesis will furthermore conduct a policy-analysis. The methodology and theory of this will be conducted on the basis of Re-Reading Education Policies: A Handbook Studying the Policy Agenda of the 21st Century edited by Simons, Olssen and Peters (2009). The methods and theories described here have led to the original texts that similarly will be described in this section.
Document analysis is one of the most used methods in social sciences. It is almost impossible to imagine empirical studies without some form of involvement of documents. Document analysis is often seen in combination with other analytical techniques, but can also be based exclusively on a defined set of documents. Against this background, document analysis is used in many different study areas. This may be policy analysis, narrative methods or discourse analysis. Here, processes are uncovered, which leads on to the determining of a political agenda, standard or practice, but also the establishment or change in power relations and techniques for exercising power. Moreover, this can also lead to change in opinion among various stakeholders and the meaning they attach to various social and political phenomena (Lynggaard, 2010). Often, document analysis has a focus over a certain period of time in order to identify stability or change within a given study area. The representation also depends on whether, as in this case, it is a thesis or another task. Therefore, the space is crucial for how documents are presented and analyzed. In this thesis, there will be both policy analysis but also discourse analysis. In addition, the various stakeholdersâ€™ opinions and attitudes are also covered. Since the much-used use of documents in the empirical study takes place, it can give rise to document analysis perceived as a trivial activity. That said, I find it important that there is explicit, systematic and methodical reflection on document analysis.
According to Lynggaard (2010), a variety of methodological challenges is brought to our attention when we are faced with having to use the documents in the empirical analysis. Here, it is a question of how the criteria for assembling is, how to get access to the requested documents, how a systematic analysis of the document is implemented, but also how these are presented in the best possible way. The concept of documents can vary considerably, but as indicated by Lynggaard (2010), it is generally said to be the language, which is fixed in text and time. In this thesis, there will be a focus on the written document, more specifically a language that is written and maintained as such at any given time. It is also important to mention that the documents used here were not produced with the primary objective to be included as data in research. That the document has been fixed for a given time does not mean that the document does not develop over a period of time, rather, the opposite. For example, legal texts undergo a development from policy intentions of the preparatory writings to actual legislation. A document can in addition also contribute with data that express the rationale for which the document was an expression of when it was created (Lynggaard, 2010). All these aspects will be focused on in this thesis.
Lynggaard describes how a document should be seen as either primary, secondary or tertiary (2010) - a distinction which is based on whom the document is circulated around to. A primary document is a document that is in the hands of a limited set of actors at some point in the immediate vicinity of the event or situation the document refers to. A secondary document may, however, be seen as a document that in principle is accessible to all who wish to access it in the proximity of the time in which the document refers. Finally, a tertiary document is accessible to all, but is also characterized by being produced at a time after the event that the document refers to. It can be difficult to distinguish between these three, and perhaps depends more on the study's purpose and focus (Lynggaard, 2010). Therefore, one cannot say that the truth is best exploited by using the first two approaches, as this may also be the case for tertiary documents. Importantly, however, one must consider the temporal context for various types of documents, including the target group the sender of the document had in mind. If the interest is in finding hidden agendas and the exercise of power, it is often best to use primary documents, while secondary documents can be used to show a trend. Is it conversely a contrary to description and mapping of a debate,
then tertiary documents are better. A combination of the three will result in a more profound and multifaceted analysis. This thesis attempts to implement all three, but is characterized by the last two. It thus highlights a particular development and description, but has also aimed at trying to find hidden agendas in the documents.
The type of documents sought collected to give proof for the analysis depends on the course of the research question. For this reason, the criteria for selecting documents must also be made explicit to answer the research question in the best way (Lynggaard, 2010). One way may be the snowball method described by Anne Reff Pedersen (1998). The approach is, first and foremost, to pursue mutual references between documents. A mother-document that covers a certain time frame of interest must first be determined and then references to other documents are followed up. A legal text may, for example, refer to previous legislation and practice in this area and can also refer to the preparatory work and international conventions and treaties. If they are based in a policy paper produced by an organization, this would once more refer to another legal text. Since it can be a matter of covering a discourse or a policy area, the documents are investigated in the best possible way to make sure that no more references can be traced. In practice, this can be difficult as new documents are constantly produced. When searching for documents using the snowball method, the significance of these have very different variation. For this purpose, the research question has a crucial impact on the types of authority that are considered to be essential, as well as the function of the sender of the document is also of significance (Lynggaard, 2010). Throughout this thesis there has been made use of the basics for the snowball method. In collaboration with the supervisor, this thesis has identified the mother-documents for different aspects, which then has led to other references. Various authors have also been selected to provide both diversity, but also validity for the described discourse and following discussions. The thesis also includes a policy analysis, where there has also been paid attention to not just the preparatory work, but also documents from interest groups. The authenticity of the documents has also had a voice and some are in the light of this opted out. Due to the limitations of this thesis, it must be acknowledged that not all references were found to follow up on.
One method for the analysis of the collected document is that of a pre-specified theoretical apparatus. Here, different variables specify one or more indicators that a clearly defined and delimited material of documents can illuminate through a well-designed method of analysis. More specifically, this concerns a hypothetical-deductive method. Conversely, the analysis may lead to the development of indicators or variables to be analyzed. This moves the analysis more towards an analytical-inductive method in the study (Lynggaard, 2010). It is possible that the utility of the document analysis can be based on guidelines from a theoretical apparatus. Here, one can point to policy changes that have taken place, or that discursive change is made on the basis of change in the meaning of a phenomenon. In addition, it may also be emphasized that institutional changes have taken place when the existing rules or procedures were replaced. If the basis of a theoretical concept change, it is important to find out what needs to be observed. Lynggaard (2010) acknowledges, however, that there may be circumstances where there are not enough operational instructions and separate indicators consequently must be developed. Therefore, the development of a number of published documents within a given area, or the number of references to specific terms in the document material can be used as indicators of a particularly evolution of importance or special themes. Thus, we now move toward an even more analytical-inductive approach. Here it is a question of documents examined with the purpose of identifying various developments and designs. This can form the basis for a theoretical interpretation on the basis of such newly discovered contexts (Lynggaard, 2010). In this thesis, the analytical-inductive approach will be used in the document analysis as the various references form the basis for an indication of the development of ideas and discourses.
The presentation of the document material and the method considerations must, according to Lynggaard (2010), nor be neglected. Here, he uses the terms ‘authenticity’, ‘credibility’, ‘representativeness’ and ‘meaning’, as referred to by John Scott (1990). With the former, it is a question of whether the origin and the sender are clearly identifiable. Contrary, credibility refers to what extent the reliability of the documents can be assessed, and whether the document material thus creates uncertainty or reaches its conclusion in a particular direction. The third term refers to the extent to which a given document reflects a typical phenomenon. An imperfection of
the document material may nevertheless be a consequence of a necessary methodological choice, but no matter what the circumstances behind this would be, it is necessary to conduct methodological considerations about the extent to which the undergone document material can be said to be representative in relation to the crucial research questions. With the last term, meaning, it is basically an aspect of whether the meaning of the document is clear. This may be language barriers or sheer inadequacy (Lynggaard, 2010). In this thesis, there has been made use of Danish texts and documents and the translation of these are, in relation to the above terms, also done with respect for the language, culture and context, in addition to the reader. All documents analysed in this thesis are to the best possible extent judged on all of the above four terms as this helps to provide optimal weight in a final response to the research questions.
As mentioned earlier, a policy-analysis will take place in this thesis. The analysis of policy has become increasingly significant as older notions of centralised and sovereign power have been challenged. In education this problematisation of instrumental power and state-centric theorising has been developed through research on problem-taking and problem-making. More recently, critical policy researchers have used notions of discourse to interrogate this process of problem taking/making. Seeing policy as discourse focuses attention on the way power operates through micro-practices of power-knowledge in which language is a medium for, and also mediates, social action (Ball, 1990). Throughout the policy-analysis this thesis will use a discourse analysis, more specific a critical discourse analysis, as defined by Norman Fairclough. He takes the point of departure in analysing the actual language used in texts and combine this analysis with a focus on discursive and social practices which the concrete text plays a role within (Simons et al., 2009). Fairclough states that:
â€œ*i+n seeing language as a discourse and as social practice, one is committing oneself not just to analysing texts, nor just analysing processes of production and interpretation, but to analysing the relationship between texts, processes, and their social conditions, both the immediate conditions of the situational context and the more remote conditions of institutional and social structuresâ€? (Fairclough, 1989, p. 26)
If having this framework, Fairclough states that scholars oriented towards policy can look at policy texts as struggles over language and as dialectically linked to a particular organisation of society. First off, the analysis of policy at the level of discourse enables one to focus on dominant discourse types within policy texts, and on how realities, identities and writer and reader positions are being constituted. Here, one can focus on how discursive operations attempt to address the readers as individual persons and how the dominant discourses exclude or marginalise others (Simons et al., 2009). Secondly, critical discourse analysis allows a combination of thorough textual analysis at the level of policy texts with an analysis of the broader economic and political context. Focus can here be the emergence of discourses, how the discourses become hegemonic, how they are reconceptualised, and finally how they are operationalised (Fairclough, 2005). In this thesis it will be how the emergence of the understanding of employability starts to play a role in new fields, and it actually transform social reality. In addition, critical discourse analysis can also be used to show a specific interest in the rhetoric of policy, and especially how discourses are influencing social practices by persuasion. The different types of concepts and phrases in policy talk, and included genres and styles, can be analysed in terms of explicit strategies or spin aimed at influencing readers and listeners (Simons et al., 2009). Stating the above, one could think of critical policy studies as interested in making things public through helping to create and support matters of concern. However, it is important that research in the first place is linked with matters of concern and not fact (Simons et al., 2009). It may appear trivial to state this, but there seems to be a tendency to look at this critical dedication as a concern of fact in need of rational justification. Linked with matters of concern, all of the above theories, methodologies and concerns on critical discourse analysis will form the basis for a later policy-analysis in this thesis. Given that the methodology and theory now is studied and described, the introduction to the main theme of this thesis, â€˜employabilityâ€™, will now be examined in the following section.
3. Employability In an interview in a magazine for master's graduates in Denmark, Gritt B. Nielsen describes two different speeches from the University of Copenhagen. As the former Rector, Linda Nielsen, in 2005 is giving a speech to the new students, she said that the rector's traditional handshake was welcoming them to the ‘Universitas - a community that has survived for 526 years.’ Her successor, Ralf Hemmingsen, who held the speech the following year, on the other hand, called the handshake the beginning of the student's participation in a ‘global education race’ (Cain & Nielsen, 2010). As the two speeches show, there is a clear change in time. The first rector welcomes a community in which to think critically and have a moral obligation to engage in the development of the world students are a part of. Conversely, the other rector was welcoming the students as participants in the global race. Here, the students should first and foremost think of their own success, and the study is not a question of creating morally rooted ties to the university and the larger society. It is rather a question of being calculating, to see education as a private investment, and to maximize one’s own so-called employability (Cain & Nielsen, 2010). When looking at this in a higher education framework, it manifests itself in a debate around the employability of graduates and what universities should be doing to improve this (Birds, 2010), but also why the message in the two speeches could change so dramatically. In what follows, I will first start out with a description of the history of employability. This section will use the issues described by Chez Leggatt-Cook and Ronald W. McQuaid and Colin Lindsay as these also relates to other writers and give a thorough review.
History of Employability
The concept of employability continues to be applied within a range of different contexts and to those in work, those seeking jobs, but also students in higher education institutions. This thesis will focus on the latter, but look at it on a meta-level in this section to show different tendencies. Given the many different contexts, it is not easy to come up with a working definition (McQuaid & Lindsay, 2005). All in all, it could be said that employability is a notion that portrays the economic and political times in which we live (Brown, Hesketh, & Williams, 2003). From my point of view, employability has tended to be viewed as primarily a characteristic of the individual. Likewise, it seems to me, even though employability has a high priority, that the individual is again placed as
being in charge of this. Other definitions of course differ, but it seems as if the main differences evolve around whether the focus is upon the individual’s own characteristics and readiness for work, or it is rather a question upon the factors influencing getting a job. A history of employability would give a better overview. According to different commentators (Leggatt-Cook, 2007; McQuaid & Lindsay, 2005), the history of employability can be traced back at least a century. All three of the writers use the ideas of Bernard Gazier’s work from Employability: Concepts and Policies (1998) to make a very thorough historical development of employability. Time and period, as described by the three commentators, are shown in Table 1. The table is covering different movements in different countries throughout time, but should be used to show tendencies of the concept of employability on a meta-level, that again can be related to higher education institutions on a micro-level.
Concept of employability Dichotomic Socio-medical Manpower policy Flow Labour market performance Initiative Interactive
Period Beginning of 20th century Before the 1950s Since the 1960’s 1960’s End of 1970’s Late 1980’s End of 1980’s
(Table 1. Constructed on the ideas of McQuaid & Lindsay (2005) and Leggatt-Cook (2007)) The seven concepts of employability in the table above can again be identified as emerging in three waves. The first wave of employability definitions was solely dichotomic employability (McQuaid & Lindsay, 2005). This emerged in the United Kingdom as well as North America and was used in the first four decades of the nineteenth century. Here it was simply a question of dividing people into either employable or unemployable. The former referred to be the individuals ready and valid for work, whereas the latter applied to those not ready or valid for work (LeggattCook, 2007). This rather simplistic version was more a distinction of emergency than a labour market policy tool (McQuaid & Lindsay, 2005). The second wave began a little before 1950 and lasted until the 1970’s and included socio-medical employability, manpower policy employability as well as flow employability. All three of the very different concepts were used by statisticians, social workers, but also labour market policy makers 15
(McQuaid & Lindsay, 2005). The first two, mostly used in the United States, focused very much on recognizing and measuring the space between individual characteristics and demands of work in the labour market. The concept of flow employability, coming from France, had a much broader methodology than just the individual aspect. This included a focus on collective elements that, positively or negatively, may impact on the fate of a group of unemployed individuals (LeggattCook, 2007) and hence a stronger focus on the demand-side of the employer – an aspect that will be elaborated more on in a later section. All three of the concepts from the second wave were discarded in the 1980’s. The first two was said not to draw a parallel with, or predict, observed reemployment rates of unemployed individuals. Flow employability was, instead, abandoned due to its primary focus on demand side considerations, macro-level economic change, and the absorption rate of the economy as they seemed inadequate for the purpose of orienting reintegration (Leggatt-Cook, 2007). This gave rise to the third and last wave, including the latter three concepts of employability labour market performance, initiative and interactive. The first has been internationally used since the late 1970’s and is merely a matter of being able to support oneself through labour market performance. It could therefore be used to measure efficiency, but not evaluate the causes of the performance (McQuaid & Lindsay, 2005). Initiative employability instead mirrored a quickly developing awareness on the part of both individuals and organisations that successful career development required. The individuals’ employment security became increasingly depended on having the skills that would attract a range of employers rather than just one (Leggatt-Cook, 2007; McQuaid & Lindsay, 2005). The very last concept – emerging in the United States and later reaping acceptance internationally – reflects that the issue of employability is also about overcoming the many obstacles faced when looking for work and therefore not just a focus on the individual. Accordingly, interactive employability suggests that policies around employability should include this. Having described the last concept in the third wave, I support the thoughts of Leggatt-Cook (2007) and McQuaid & Lindsay (2005) that the concept of employability still leans immensely upon the individual–centred, supply side components and not so much on the demand side of employers, as otherwise described in the last concept. If summing up the evolution of employability, it is easy to see that throughout time a stronger focus on the individual has evolved. This has also been the case for students in higher education
institutions. In these times it is not a question of just getting an education and then there would be a job waiting for you after graduation. Students now have to put an effort into being employable. You have to sell yourself. You have to make yourself interesting for the employer and traditional concerns about the employability of the unemployed and unqualified have been extended to those entering the job market from higher education institutions. Knowledge workers cannot expect or assume that there are jobs waiting for them. They must take a great responsibility for their own employability. All in all, there has over time been a change in focus from employment to a focus on employability as depicted in the graph.
Figure 1. Focus on the Individual in Higher Education.
Definitions of Employability
One thing is the history of the concept of employability, but there are likewise many different definitions of employability in todayâ€™s society. It is a very difficult concept to define and both similarities and differences are easy to come across in the field of employability. Due to limitations in this thesis, it is not found possible to mention definitions from institutions in several regions, as a larger analysis would be necessary. In addition, this thesis is focussed on the use of employability in higher education institutions as the selected definitions also will show. Definitions from various agencies within the EU, with its top-down effect on member states, would therefore be represented; more specific the Bologna Follow-up Group (BFUG), the European Expert Network on Economics of Education (EENEE), and the European Centre for the Development of Vocational
Training (CEDEFOP). This will be followed up with proclaims from Ruth Bridgstock and her arguments around enhancing graduates’ employability.
Since the very start of the launching of The European Higher Education Area (EHEA) along with the Bologna Process' decade anniversary (a thorough description and analysis of this will follow), employability has been one of the main goals to be achieved. For the purpose of the main followup structure within EHEA, the Bologna Follow-up Group, BFUG, employability was defined as "the ability to gain initial employment, to maintain employment, and to be able to move around within the labour market” (EHEA, 2010). A broad definition that was further explained as students at the end of the course “...should have an in-depth knowledge of their subject as well as generic employability skills. These should include the ability to engage in different disciplines; to pursue flexible learning paths and to ensure continued personal and professional development" (EHEA, 2010). All in all, the definition includes generic as well as specific skills in a lifelong learning aspect; moreover, it includes a focus on skills and attributes that an individual are to acquire for the workplace, as well as what employers require. Thus, this can also be said to relate to relevance and quality. Along this, an Analytical Report for the European Commission prepared by the European Expert Network on Economics of Education (EENEE) showed that:
“…it is rather the right skill mix provided by higher educational attainment which is crucial for employability and for growth. Studying different skill dimensions, we revealed both traditional cognitive skills but also other key competencies as important for employability.” (EENEE, 2010, p. 32)
Following up, they argue that there should be a large focus on quality indicators rather than quantitative ones and consequently recommend an early monitoring of all employability relevant outcomes (EENEE, 2010, p. 32).This defining approach is moreover followed up, as they “…abstain from advising indicators based on input measures like educational financing and prefer a better assessment of institutional features that are conducive to different determinants of employability” (EENEE, 2010, p. 32). Neither specific numbers, nor benchmarks should according to EENEE
therefore be provided, but should instead be defined on a national level and focus on improvement in the respective indicators. The last definition within EU is that of the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training, CEDEFOP. In their glossary, they have specifically defined employability as â€œthe combination of factors which enable individuals to progress towards or get into employment, to stay in employment and to progress during careerâ€? (CEDEFOP, 2008). However, like BFUG and EENEE, they broaden the concept to depend on four aspects. The first is the personal attributes, here including adequacy of knowledge and skills; the second is how these personal attributes are presented on the labour market; thirdly is the environmental and social contexts; and lastly the economic context (CEDEFOP, 2008). As pointed out above, the concept of employability can be difficult to define and attempts by EENEE are a good example, as they desist from advising indicators. Precisely the broad definition of employability is seconded by Ruth Bridgstock. She argues that narrow definitions of employability should be sidestepped. Narrow definitions emphasize skills and dispositions that might make an individual attractive to potential employers. Often this focuses on short-term employment outcomes, and that is precisely why these kinds of definitions are adopted by employer organizations. In her research on enhancing graduate employability, she instead defines the latter as involving much more than possession of generic skills listed by graduate employers as attractive (Bridgstock, 2009). According to her, this recognition must include far more than mapping generic competencies into existing curricula; it will involve partnerships between faculties, career services and employers to develop and implement programs addressing the issue of career management competence, including career building and self-management skills. Lastly, she states that universities must also remove the division between themselves and the demands of the world of work in order to enable graduates to adapt to the turbulent years to come (Bridgstock, 2009, p. 40). Much research and several reports from the same region, such as, CHEERS, HEGESCO and REFLEX have already been conducted on these concerns and the above definitions. The research in the member states and their results and concerns will be analysed and discussed later in this section. The above has now given an understanding of the definitions of employability by different agencies in EU. However, as can be seen in the above definitions, issues of quality are also
mentioned. Consequently, the following will look further into the concept of quality within higher education institutions.
Quality in Higher Education Institutions
When talking about higher education, and more specifically the goal of higher education, it has as shown above a correlation to employability. Moreover, when discussing the issue of employability there is a drive to look at this in a quality framework. To do so, a definition of quality in relation to the goals of higher education will be required. As this is a tendency, there are many different approaches to defining and measuring quality in a higher education framework. Throughout this thesis, the definitions and explanations of quality by Lee Harvey and Diana Green will be used. This is due to how they define the concept of quality in relation to higher education, but moreover analyse it in ways of thinking about quality, while considering the philosophical and political underpinnings (Harvey & Green, 1993). Another reason is that they proclaim that there has been an issue of changed circumstances, increased levels of participation, widening access, pressure on human and physical resources, appraisal, audit and assessment which have raised the profile of quality within higher education - something that can be condoned when looking at the following sections. Given the above, the two writers have defined five different views of quality in terms of exception, perfection, fitness for purpose, value for money and transformative. This thesis will focus on the latter three. The reasoning lies in the description of the first two respectively not delivering definable means of determining quality (Harvey & Green, 1993, p. 3), and also the question of higher education not being about delivering specifications in as near a perfect way as possible (Harvey & Green, 1993, p. 9). This calls for a short justification that, due to the length of this thesis, will not be elaborated further on, but that can be consulted in Defining Quality from 1993 by Harvey & Green. To take a different approach, I want to start out by looking at how others have used Harvey and Green's definitions of quality and then go into more depth with the specific definitions, fitness for purpose, value for money and transformative.
Quality consultant Ton Vroeijenstijn has proclaimed that it is important to speak the same language, and find a workable concept shared by all when talking about quality in higher education. For him, an absolute quality does not exist and therefore is a fixed definition of quality not possible. Additionally, he points out the importance of quality being able to change over time (Vroeijenstijn, 2012). According to him there are more players in the field of quality in higher education, and notices the significance of acknowledging the appearance of students, staff, government/parliament, employers/professional bodies, society at large as well as international fora. Having a handful of stakeholders also provides differentiated views of quality. Based on Harvey and Greenâ€™s definition, two different views on quality are however defined by him. The first is fitness for purpose and the second is fitness of purpose. The former is explained as achieving goals and aims in an efficient and effective way, whereas the latter is explained as assuming that the goals and aims reflect the requirements/expectations of all stakeholders in an adequate way (Vroeijenstijn, 2012). This provides reason to look further into the definitions of quality by Harvey and Green.
The two writers deem the view of quality as fitness for purpose as a functional definition and, unlike other definitions of quality, it is inclusive, as every product or service has the potential to be quality when fitting its purpose (Harvey & Green, 1993, p. 9). However, when defining fitness for purpose, the purpose for whom must also be elaborated on. Two specifications are therefore evolved; one being with the focus on the customer, the second on the provider. Paying attention to the customer in higher education gives an issue of defining who the customer is. Is the customer the service user, in the form of the student, or is it the ones paying for the service in a funding aspect, in shape of the government or employers (Harvey & Green, 1993, p. 11)? When taking the view that the student is the service customer, it:
â€œ...raises a number of difficulties, particularly in the evaluation of the service. *...+ Unlike manufacturing industry, the producers and customers (lecturers and students) are both part of the production process making the process individual and personal depending on the characteristics of both the producer and the customer.â€? (Harvey & Green, 1993, p. 11)
Noticeably, this brings up the issue of who should define and assess quality in higher education if the roles are not clear. In relation to this, Harvey and Green look at education as a service industry and therefore make an argument for the need of defining quality beyond meeting customers’ requirements and should instead focus on delighting customers (Harvey & Green, 1993, p. 12). With the spotlight on the provider, the issues are tried to be turned around. Instead of focusing on meeting the customers’ requirements, quality is possible to define in relation to the institution meeting its own stated objective or mission (Harvey & Green, 1993). The two writers are however quick to state the difficulty of being clear about what the purpose of higher education should, and/or must, be. In higher education, there will be different stakeholders and most of them will have different perceptions of the purpose of their field:
“Institutions (in a market-led competitive situation) will have different emphases leading to high quality in fitness for one purpose and low in relation to another purpose, assuming, of course, that there is some means of evaluating the fitness for these defined purposes.” (Harvey & Green, 1993, p. 14)
As stated by Harvey and Green, there is a tendency to see quality in the form of the latter definition. However, they notice that this is contingent upon the accountability implicit in quality as value for money. This might be due to the fact that market forces and competition, more specific economic individualism, underpins the close links between both quality of and value for money in higher education (Harvey & Green, 1993, pp. 15-16). Having value for money as the second notion of quality again raises questions. Determining the value of something will demand measuring tools, maybe in the form of performance indicators or customer’s charters.
“However, there is a danger that *performance indicators+ are better at measuring efficiency rather than effectiveness, that as their use becomes more widespread, quality becomes further entangled with value for money. *In addition,+ … student charters refer to minimum standards and are produced for, and not by, students.” (Harvey & Green, 1993, pp. 16-17)
Different student bodies are introduced and these bodies do have options of discussing different issues. Nonetheless, there is a lack of participation mechanisms for the students to voice their opinions and to take part in the decision making processes behind their education. The missing link is, in spite of this, the lack of voice during the actual implementation phase. From the outside, it may seem as if the students have power, but when it comes to the decision making process of their education they are not thought in as an equal stakeholder with an evenly balanced voice. This can also be seen, when different student surveys are conducted. These surveys refer to minimum standards and are produced for, and not by, students, so their views are often narrowed down to predetermined issues. It is therefore not a question of empowerment of the learner and the democratisation is likewise vague. Nevertheless, the expectations also need to be met, so the notion of quality is meeting the expectations with a focus on the democratisation of the process. This leads on to the last notion of quality in this thesis, transformative. Looking at quality in higher education as something transformative brings up the concerns about the relevance of a productcentred view of quality, in the form of fitness for purpose. In the field of (higher) education the provider is not doing something for the student, but instead doing something to the student – a transformation that will be individually unique. At the same time, Harvey and Green believe that this must happen with the learner simultaneously in focus in both the evaluation and learning process. In other words, it is a question of empowerment of the learner.
“Empowering the learner, in higher education, means empowering students and conceding some autonomy to collaborators, such as employers. It involves the consumer in setting standards, endorsing practices, specifying curricula, and so on. Quality is judged in terms of the democratisation of the process, not just the outcome.” (Harvey & Green, 1993, p. 20)
Having the focus on the democratisation of higher education, every stakeholder should be involved equally in terms of power. From what has been described above, money had a strong correlation to the possession of power; an aspect that does not give equality among all stakeholders. Money should therefore not determine the possibility of a strong impetus. At the same time, the impetus should be more, but not solely, dedicated to the graduates’ goal. Here it is a matter of looking at the extent to which individual graduates are able to realise their own
individual goals, which is also mentioned in research by REFLEX (Allen & Velden, 2011), and further elaborated on later in this thesis. What students strive for in their life can be much broader than just employability. The goals are different, and can change, but most important is that these goals are taken into consideration. This is giving a whole new notion of quality in higher education, as the strong impetus for employability is taken over by the importance of a democratisation of the process. As we are living in a knowledge-based society and the economy is developed around this issue as well, all the stakeholders must not just have equal power, but also equal responsibility for the society. What the students are taught in higher education institutions must be linked both to what the employers need, but definitely also to what the students wish, and what the public see as most beneficial for society. An equal and democratic process is therefore an important aspect. From my point of view, it seems as if what the other two notions were lacking, in the form of empowerment, quality as transformative sums up. However, the reworded notion by Vroeijenstijn, fitness of purpose, is also very important. This latter definition is able to include the issue of assuming that the goals and aims reflect the requirements and expectations of all stakeholders in an adequate way. The focus on ‘for’ by Green and Harvey seems very broad, whereas Vroeijenstijn, with his focus on ‘of’, has been very specific around the actual focus of meeting expectations, and adding it up with the notion of transformative quality it brings the loose ends together. Summing up, an alternative notion of quality could be transformed in to be transformative fitness of purpose – meeting the expectations of all stakeholders with a focus on empowerment and the democratisation of the process. The abovementioned has given an insight to the use of different quality definitions in higher education institutions. Moreover, the appearance of different stakeholders has also been mentioned, and now gives reason to look further into their role around the issue of employability.
Stakeholders in Employability
As could be seen in the description by Vroeijenstijn there are several stakeholders to take into account when addressing the issues of employability. These could be students in higher education, university staff, government, professional bodies, society at large as well as international fora. This
thesis will especially depict the stakeholder aspect of the universities, the state and the industry, but also the ones of the graduates/students and civil society. In the arena of global education governance civil society has emerged as a significant actor. Civil society has, as well as the nation state, undergone a changing process in the global world. It is an entity as well as an arena between the state and the citizens carried out through the public sphere, via various media. Organizations and other participants feed the public debate with ideas, views, and demands and form discursive fora outside the political sphere, the state or government. Teegan, Doh and Vachani cite Brown’s definition of civil society as “…an area of association and action independent of the state and the market in which citizens can organize to pursue purposes that are important to them, individually and collectively” (Teegan, Doh, & Vachani, 2004, p. 464). According to the stakeholder role of the students, it can, from the review and analysis above, be seen that there is a lack of participation mechanisms for the students to voice their opinions and to take part in the decision making processes behind their education. Universities were only for a special elite if we go back in history, but within recent years there has been a massicification of higher education. That said, they must be thought of as an equal stakeholder. Different student bodies are introduced and these bodies do have options of discussing different issues. Regardless of this they still need to be heard during the actual implementation phase. From the outside it may seem as if the students have power, but when it comes to the important aspects of their education they are not thought of as an equal stakeholder with a fair voice. This can also be seen when different student surveys are produced for, and not by, students, so their views are often narrowed down to predetermined issues – an aspect that was pointed out by Harvey and Green, but also will be elaborated on in a coming section. It is therefore not a question of empowerment of the learner and the democratisation is similarly indistinguishable. If given a voice, the question is then whether the students would have interest, but also time and official avenues for participation, to let it be heard. The stakeholders within the state are politicians and government officials. This can both be local, national or global depending on which areas of employability to be investigated or discussed. Universities need, all the while, also to be incorporated as a stakeholder. In addition to the mission of teaching and research, universities are now seen to be taking on a new third mission in the
shape of more directly contributing to the economy. In relation to this, higher education institutions are more than ever now considered companies. Universities are also currently referred to as groups, as they have human resources departments and management development programs operated by private auditors (Faye & Pedersen, 2012), while also having to compare themselves to other universities in official rankings. The applications of managerialism in higher education institutions are also increasingly familiar as pressure from policy makers to deliver a product is present, and due to the fact that they may receive public and private funds. All in all, signs of new public management are captured in higher education institutions. In new public management, restructuring or change is the rule so to speak. There is a shift from structural change in view of social reform towards permanent change in view of efficiency, effectiveness or increased performance (Simons et al., 2009). Lastly, we have the industry as a strong stakeholder. From what this thesis will show, industry has gained a lot of power in recent years. This might be due to the reason that the voice of money talks louder; money that the industry has. They have used this voice to imprint a strong impetus for a labour market oriented view of employability in higher education. Since they are ‘recipients’ of the graduates, it goes without saying, that they must have a stakeholder role, but it can be questioned whether they at the moment use this voice only for their own gain.
The meaning of employability seems to change depending on which stakeholder is using it. When the industry says employability they mean ‘usefulness’, and the following employability skills are the abilities that make someone quickly productive in their work tasks and decrease the necessity of spending money on training and development. When universities say it, they mean ‘offloadability’, and employability skills are behaviours likely to reduce a student's chances of showing up in unemployment statistics. Thirdly, when students and civil society at large talk about employability the employer and institutional elements are present, but there are also elements as sustainability, appropriateness and autonomy. The former relates to having security in the employment, whereas appropriateness refers to being able to secure roles that meet needs and expectations. The latter, autonomy, is on the other hand a matter of being given a position where one can choose (Chertkovskaya, 2013).
The employer and institutional interpretations are, from the above, currently dominant in discussions of employability and that is leading to one-dimensional implementations of employability policies used by the last stakeholder - the state. In this thesis, references to the public sector, government and the state will be seen as the same stakeholder. This is due to an aspect of how the authors refer to this specific stakeholder and therefore to have validity in the references. This is also the case with universities that may be referred to as academia, and industry that may be referred to as enterprise or business.
As can be seen, there are many different stakeholders within the issues of employability. Throughout this thesis, the views from the five different stakeholders above will be covered in this thesis. In addition, two models for the debate of employability will be considered in the progress. One deals with the students and civil society at large, while the other has an emphasis on the interaction between the industry, government and universities. The former model will be described later in this chapter. Given the insight to the different stakeholders around employability in higher education, I will in the following go into depth with the time and the following theories that are heaping our society. This is due to the influences these possess on the way society, including politicians, think and behave around employability, as this is having consequences for the reforms that are conducted. The indicated will later give reason to understand and describe the reforms in a following section. The next will take point of departure in what has been described by D. W. Livingstone in addition to the thoughts of Philip Brown and Hugh Lauder.
Neo-liberalism and Human Capital
It is no secret that neo-liberalism has become a large element of our society. Firstly, it is about liberalization of product and capital markets. Secondly, it is about ensuring an independent centre to manage inflation and also ensure balance in public budgets. And finally, is the state withdrawal from the economy through deregulation, outsourcing or outright privatization. It is especially the last part, which has implications for universities (Pedersen, 2011). Everything has to be privatized and almost everything is turned into a service â€“ including education â€“ which now is considered a service in terms of the General Agreement on Trades in Services (GATS). The GATS is under the
WTO (World Trade Organization) negotiations, and it covers rules and trade agreements on public services which include education. Before 1995, when GATS came into effect in the WTO Uruguay Round, trade rules had only been concerned with goods. When seeing education as a service, all things considered, the student will also eventually turn into a consumer. With neo-liberalism the idea of a knowledge-based society also arose. It represents a historic solution to the struggle for wealth creation based on brains rather than brawn of the workforce. It signifies a turning point in the evolutionary transformation from industrial to information rich, knowledge-based economies (Brown, Williams, & Hesketh, 2004). Knowledge became the commodity that creates growth and therefore very important and necessary for all states to compete. The more knowledge the better a country would do â€“ this was the idea. When knowledge turns into a commodity, knowledge becomes valuable. When it becomes valuable it can be considered capital. When students take an education or anyone as such gain knowledge this can be considered human capital. Investment in formal education is associated with both higher individual earnings and greater societal wealth, and these relationships are conceptualised and documented by human capital theory which stresses the value of peopleâ€™s learning capacities as a factor of economic productivity. This is all built on the intellectual foundations of a neoclassical market theory and the generally optimistic assumptions of the evolutionary progress paradigm (Livingstone, 2012, p. 85). More specifically, it can be said to be based on three main propositions (Allen & De Weert, 2007, p. 60):
1. the primary role of formal schooling is to develop the human capital, or the knowledge and skills, of future workers; 2. the labour market efficiently allocates educated workers to firms and jobs where they are required; 3. the human capital of workers increases their productivity in the workplace which is then rewarded with higher earnings. The dilemma with human capital is that it neglects issues such as social capital and identity capital â€“ networks and who you are, respectively. When there is such a strong focus on human capital and other capitals are pushed aside, it is moreover easy to have the idea of employability pushed in that direction. By doing this, the responsibility is also changed from being within the state to the
individual itself, when it comes to finding a job or being employed. The individual, in this case the student, must make all the choices themselves to become as employable as possible. Concretely, we are now seeing that the most influential description currently on offer to account for the relationship between education and employment is the human capital theory. When using this theory, it is with a view that people‘s learning capacities are comparable to other natural resources involved in the capitalist production process. All in all, with the theory in mind, when the resource is effectively exploited the results are profitable both for the specific enterprises and for the society as such (Livingstone, 2012, p. 103). When putting forward this theory, the level of relationship, on an individual scale, between educational realization and income has remained strong in relative terms. Listening to this, investment from the individual in higher education has therefore continued, since it is to represent a reasonable economic choice, as long as the individual economic cost of obtaining it is not unreasonable. D. W. Livingstone is, however, fast to criticize this and states that the theory behind human capital needs to be retooled. In his opinion, it has failed to take account of the changing aggregate-level conditions by focussing too narrowly on documenting continuing relative economic benefits, especially the lower unemployment rates and relatively high earnings of those with higher formal credentials (Livingstone, 2012). Along this, very contrary to the standard of the human capital theory, collective investment in education has expanded extensively, while the compensation growth has stagnated. Stating this, and considering the theory as it is now and the time it is situated in, there must be some concerns with the theory. It must be said that the applicability of human capital theory’s aggregate or societal level of returns on learning has been thrown into doubt (Livingstone, 2012). Livingstone continues when postulating that:
“*a+ppeals to an immanent knowledge economy have limited credibility for those living in the education-jobs gap. The ´learning for earning´ thesis is increasingly reduced to a strategy for relative individual advantage and decreasing marginal returns. Human capital theory appears to have reached its limit as a rationale for increased social investment in education.” (Livingstone, 2012, p. 108)
It is interesting to note that human capital theory is in accord with the Marxist labour theory of value on this recognition of labour as the key source of wealth in capitalist society. From the
beginning of the Marxist thoughts up to our contemporary econometricians, dominant economic theories have tended to diminish the role of labour in the creation of wealth. The limits of human capital theory, as shown above, are its fixation with individual market transactions and loss of sight to macro-level underemployment. In Marxist terms, human capital theory insists on the importance of investment in education, the imparting of value to the future labourer, but does not directly deal with the fact that this personified value must be harnessed in the production of goods or services by labour power in order for the human capital invested to have its value. It is precisely this letdown of value realization - along with industries increasingly frequent demands for ‘soft skills’ that are product of other forms of capital; mainly social and cultural - that constitutes the education-jobs gap (Livingstone, 2012, pp. 109-110). Philip Brown and Hugh Lauder are likewise critical towards the human capital theory. Calling it the death of human capital, they state that:
“... [it] has become a victim of its own success, at least in its influence over government policy. Human capital is itself subject to the laws of diminishing returns. It is losing its capacity as a source of competitive advantage for both individuals and nations because the ´positional´ advantage of those with higher education and skills is not only declining domestically (as higher education is expanded) but also globally. Therefore, while much current thinking about the relationship between education, jobs and rewards is based on a evolutionary model of rising skills and incomes, this now looks more like a ´transitional´ case limited to the twentieth century, one in which access to higher education was limited to a few.” (Brown & Lauder, 2012, p. 129)
As the number of graduates entering the job market are increasing, the above statement becomes more valid, since being good is no longer good enough. Now it instead becomes a question of employability and more specific demand-side and supply-side. This focus, as seen earlier in this thesis, on individual employability (supply-side) rather than political commitment to job creation (demand-side), is a political sleight of hand that shifts the responsibility for employment firmly onto the shoulders of individuals rather than the state (Brown & Lauder, 2012). The above is true to what skills in education today is all about: we provide people with resources in the form of skills, in a way that we were all young princes/princesses of our own human capital to sustain ourselves and our employability in a threatening environment. We no longer have any
idea how we can win the global fight over market share, self-preservation and continued prosperity (Henriksen, 2011). One could say that there has been a shift in the role of the state from being a distributor of resources to offering services, or that there has been a shift from a social state to an enabling state, where the state should make it possible for the citizen to make active choices (Fejes, 2010, p. 98). All of the above is seconded by Louise Morley when stating that:
“… *g+lobalisation has had an impact on higher educational policy, and … [a] criticism of globalisation is that it can be a euphemism for the ideology of standardisation, with the standards of the most powerful groups used as a benchmark. The employability debate could be interpreted as an exercise in norm-making in which the `core skills’ rhetoric disseminates ideas about what it means to be an `employable’ person, thereby providing and prescribing norms, models and values. The skills identified as core produce the type of knowledge and understanding that is required to maintain dominant cultural and political arrangements. Furthermore, the employability discourse is a one-way gaze with truth claims that problematise the capital of students while leaving the cultural and social capital and employment practices of employers untouched.” (Morley, 2001, p. 137)
Given the above discourse of neo-liberalism and human capital, I will in the following examine what reforms have followed from the above consequences. More specifically, this will relate to the Bologna Process.
The Bologna Process
The idea of human capital was especially easy to see when the Bologna Process was under way. Four different aspects were set as the purpose of higher education in Europe, where employability was one of them (McQuaid & Lindsay, 2005). The other three were preparation for life as active citizens in a democratic society, personal development and the development and maintenance of a broad, advanced knowledge base, or more precisely lifelong learning (European Comission, 1999). The Bologna Process is a reform process within higher education, which started in Europe. The goal was, and still is, to create an area for higher education in Europe, more specific European Higher Education Area – EHEA, as also mentioned earlier in this section. Within this area, the goal
was to make education structures converge, so that mobility and mutual recognition of education could be increased. It all started in 1999 when 29 countries signed the Bologna Declaration. The meeting, which took place in Bologna as the name states, did not happen out of thin air. Various trends in the years leading up to the meeting ended up having a direct impact on what the meeting contained. A common conference was held in Lisbon in 1997 to elaborate on the development of education in the European Union. During the conference a declaration was agreed and designed to describe education as a human right and that higher education was an important investment for both the individual as well as the society (Council of Europe, 1997). The participants at the conference decided at the same time that they would work for better possibilities of mobility and recognition of education with the European Union. However, in the treaties (article 149), which underlie the cooperation in the European Union, there was a clear definition of education as an area of national responsibility of the nation states. For the EU, it was only permitted to make supporting and coordinating actions, which meant that the increased recognition was not prepared as a directive in EU contexts. The following year, a meeting for all education ministers from Europe was held in Sorbonne. During this meeting France, Great Britain, Italy and Germany agreed to work together to form ideas for European education. Their thoughts were written down in a declaration in a somewhat clearer and specific tone, that described the trends and barriers that were to create a European education (Sorbonne Joint Declaration, 1998). The declaration called on the EU member states to participate in creating a breeding ground for these trends, but also to help break down the barriers. The aim was thus to develop a common framework for understanding education that would welcome and support mobility. The declaration placed much emphasis on internationalization in that it directly invited students and teachers/professors to take a semester in each step of their education in another country. The overall objective in the declaration of Sorbonne was the mobility of students and teachers, but also employability was certainly to become a part of the declaration. Responses to the fact that these four large countries could collaborate on such an agreement was immense. As the meeting in Bologna came in 1999, there was consequently a need to find a larger group of countries which would lift the task that the four countries had set out in 1998 and which
all countries within the Council of Europe had agreed upon in Lisbon. Nonetheless, at the end of the conference 29 countries signed the Bologna Declaration (European Comission, 1999). The Bologna Declaration was even more specific than Sorbonne Declaration, but the focus of the statement was changed. It now included, among others, a focus on the labour market interests in a transparent education system. It must be said that the students also had a chance to be heard. Nevertheless, the National Unions of Students in Europe (ESIB) had to invite themselves during the meeting in Bologna. Two years after the Bologna Process was signed, ESIB adopted a declaration on the future of the process. In this declaration it was stated that:
“...it must be stressed that students, as competent, active and constructive partners, must be seen as one of the driving forces for changes in the field of education. Student participation in the Bologna Process is one of the key steps towards permanent and more formalised student involvement in all decision making bodies and discussion fora dealing with higher education on the European level.” (ESIB, 2001)
That given, there was, beyond the Bologna Process key objective of achieving a common structure of the European tertiary educational format, the fundamental issue of the changing content of higher education. The highly specialized curricula of the industrial society did, according to the Bologna Process, no longer fully meet the needs of an emerging knowledge society that require citizens with entrepreneurial and inter-cultural capabilities to innovate and respond to change in an increasingly inter-connected world (H. Etzkowitz, Ranga, & Dzisah, 2012). Having stated this, there are critical voices towards the ideas of the Bologna Process. One is that of Chris Lorenz, who states that:
“…it is obvious that the economic view on higher education recently developed and formulated by the EU Declarations is similar to and compatible with the view developed by the WTO and by GATS.” (Lorenz, 2006, p. 131)
This can be connected to the view that the focus on innovation needs are the same as within employability – needs that are related to the economic view of the labour market.
All of the above have described the history and different definitions of employability, as well as the following theories and reforms that are heaping our society. This now leads on to an analysis of the earlier described research. The following research will give some answers, but will likewise give new questions.
Numerous studies have been done in the field of employability, but as stated in the beginning of the thesis, I will use the studies from Careers after Higher Education â€” a European Research Survey (CHEERS), Higher Education as a Generator of Strategic Competences (HEGESCO) and Flexible Professional in the Knowledge Society - New Demands on Higher Education in Europe (REFLEX). This is due to where these studies have been undertaken and therefore also due to the relation they have to the notions of employability and quality within higher education as described earlier. Two of the studies have focussed on the graduates, whereas one of them has focussed on both the institutions, employers and students. Additionally, this section will also consider studies from Danish universities concerning the incentives for education.
Professor Ulrich Teichler explains the research done by CHEERS. From the research, he notices that the graduates asked in the survey on average noted greater discrepancies between their competences upon graduation and the job requirements (Teichler, 2007, p. 20). Moreover, many graduates stated that their profession did not correspond to their level of education attainment, even though many had a relatively high income. In addition, the survey also pointed out that competencies which were only shaped indirectly and to a limited extent during the course of study, e.g. applying knowledge to professional assignments, socio-communicative competencies, work styles and work-related values, became more important for future assignments (Teichler, 2007, p. 16). On top of this, a closer link between study and job assignment was perceived by graduates working in the public sector:
â€œThis reflects in part the public control of professions for which a certain field of study is the required entry qualification, in part a general tendency of the public
sector to foster a close link between curricula and work assignments, and in part lesser flexibility of the middle-level occupational areas with respect to upgrading.” (Teichler, 2007, p. 19)
In Teichler’s words, the report actually goes as far as saying that the relationships between higher education and career can neither be viewed as closely tied nor as marginal, and interprets this as a moderate meritocracy (Teichler, 2007, p. 17). The partners in HEGESCO conducted a project in qualitative research among higher education institutions and employers with an emphasis on the required and acquired competencies of young professionals, as well as large-scale surveys among young professionals were undertaken. Both the overall report, but also the commented version by Matild Sagi is used in this thesis. In the project, it can be seen that up to one third of graduates were unhappy with their job. Even though happiness can be many things, it is given that the report obviously suggests that there is room for improvement (HEGESCO, 2009, p. 1). In relation to this, the graduates stated that there is a need for an even better link between higher education and industry (HEGESCO, 2009, p. 2). When asked about the most important quality control mechanisms, higher education institutions and employer organizations stated that the most important means of quality control are graduate, employer and curricular evaluations. However, the two stakeholders do not agree on the importance of practical training when having to foster the development of competencies. Employers stressed a high relevance of practical work, whereas it was less frequently reported by higher education institutions (HEGESCO, 2009, p. 4). According to the assessment of graduates undertaken in the report, higher education in Europe is quite demanding with a broad focus, but has relatively little academic freedom offered to students to compose their own programme (HEGESCO, 2009, p. 5). This can also be related to the view from students, universities and employers on teaching and learning in higher education:
“The dominant method of teaching and learning in higher education does not contribute well to the development of key competencies that are considered essential in the world of work by all the three actors in the transition from higher education to the world of work.” (Sagi, 2010, p. 3)
At the same time, the HEGESCO research shows that there is a huge contradiction between the considered importance of competencies, responsibility-taking and methods of teaching and learning (Sagi, 2010, p. 5). Higher education institutions are certain that team-work, decisionmaking and time-management are the most important competencies for graduates, but still have traditional methods of teaching and learning as the most common. In relation to this, employers are sure that the best way of acquiring competencies are introductory programs and mentorship. Bottom line, however, is that only half of the employers in the survey take responsibility for the development of graduates’ key competencies – and even less are interested in cooperating with universities for it (Sagi, 2010, p. 5). An aspect that is quite different from the ideas behind a model described later in this thesis. The last research by REFLEX has a slightly different approach. Here, the research stresses the importance of self-assessment, and that such an assessment can shed real light on the hidden characteristics of the groups that one is interested in (Allen & Velden, 2005, p. 20). As the only one of the three researches, the REFLEX research has a section dedicated to the graduates’ goals. Here, they state the importance of looking at the extent to which individual graduates are able to realise their own individual goals:
“Graduates strive for life goals that are much broader than just the world of work. These goals may differ between individuals, and may also change over the life course [...] For some graduates participation in higher education may be primarily an instrumental investment to allow them to realise later goals in the labour market and broader life, while for others it may be an experience to be cherished in itself.” (Allen & Velden, 2011, p. 8)
Having different goals about higher education can also be related to the quality definition by Harvey & Green, as this goes beyond meeting the customers’ (students’) requirements and instead focus on delighting the customer, and therefore has another focus on the aspect of relevance. The report by REFLEX also suggests that some scholars have questioned whether higher education has any effect at all on graduates’ ability to perform, pointing out that this relation is in fact weaker than that between education and rewards, and actually claim that higher education does not lead to superior competences. Instead, it is used by ‘gatekeepers’ to legitimize the rationing of access to high-status, highly paid jobs (Allen & Velden, 2011, p. 5).
In addition to this, a number of studies have examined the relationship between educational choices and incentives for education in the form of expectations of future returns. Most studies focus on the choice of education and not professional direction. These studies suggest that the expectation of future returns play a role in the choice of education. By contrast the link between economic incentives and the choice of educational direction seem to be weaker (Sekretariatet for Ministerudvalget, 205). The importance of interest in relation to the choice of professional direction is confirmed by Danish conditions in a survey among young high school students in 2004 (Gram, Bjerre, & Nielsen, 204). About two-thirds gave unemployment and possible earning little or no impact on the choice of higher education. Moreover, Aarhus University did also conduct a questionnaire-based longitudinal study of two cohorts - the green class of 1995 and the blue class of 2000 (Aarhus University, 2000, 2003). The studies show that personal interests were most important for the choice of education. By contrast, unemployment among graduates and the disciplineâ€™s public esteem were less important (see figure 2).
Figure 2. Incentives for professional direction (Aarhus University, 2000, 2003). In the study over the course of the class of 1995 the students had prior to study entry and 8 years later been asked what they accorded highest priority in the selection of education (see figure 3). Just 1 of 9 weighted job opportunities and unemployment highest prior to study entry - 8 years after study start, 1 in 4 weighted these aspects highest (Aarhus University, 2003). 37
Figure 3. Incentives for professional direction (Aarhus University, 2000, 2003). A study of human science at the University of Copenhagen in 2003 exemplifies this, as impressions of the unemployment situation within their subject had no influence on their choice of study for 87 percent of the students. A figure which stood at 93 percent in 1996 (Sekretariatet for Ministerudvalget, 205). Employability is not something the students themselves attach great importance, but something which is sermonized to them throughout their studies.
The research above showed interesting findings, as well as views in the field of employability. First of all, it was showed that there were discrepancies between the studentsÂ´ competences upon graduation and the job requirements. Moreover, the survey also pointed out that those competencies, which were only shaped indirectly and to a limited extent during the course of study, became more important for future assignments. In relation to how the views of different agencies on competencies are described in this thesis, the link does not seem to be very strong. For the agencies, competencies seem to be of absolute importance in the field of employability, but from the research it seems to be empty talk. A lot of these competencies relate to issues of e.g. applying knowledge to professional assignment, socio-communicative competencies, work styles, work-related values and team work,
and can be considered generic skills; skills that are difficult to teach in a classroom, but can be acquired during practical training. These kinds of skills are mentioned several times in the definitions of employability in this thesis, but again there is a lack of links when looking at the research conducted. Here, it showed that higher education institutions and industry do not agree on the importance of practical training. Even though higher education institutions agree on the importance of acquiring generic skills in relation to employability, this cannot be seen in the teaching taking place. They still argue that traditional methods of teaching and learning are the most adequate for development of competencies. In relation to this, industries are sure that the best way of acquiring competencies are introductory programs and mentorship. As can be seen in the above, the fact is that only half of the employers in the survey take responsibility for the development of graduates’ key competencies – and even less are interested in cooperating with universities for it. That is an obvious (strong) missing link according to the notions of employability. The research also questions whether higher education has any effect at all on graduates’ ability to perform, and actually claim that higher education does not lead to superior competences. Instead, it is used by ‘gatekeepers’ to legitimize the rationing of access to high-status, highly paid jobs. Along this, a research is very directly and calls it moderate meritocracy. Moreover, there is the impression of little academic freedom to compose programs, as a certain field of study seems required for a specific job and that upgrading therefore seems difficult.
Given the above evolution, definitions, view on quality, stakeholders, surrounding discourse in time and research, I find it all the while important in the following to look into the dilemmas and consequences for employability. In this sub-section, I will use varying issues around employability mentioned by different writers. More specifically, I will look into the arguments described by Laura Louise Sarauw in her PhD thesis on the development of human science within universities in Denmark since the University Law of 2003 and use these to show dilemmas and consequences findings that in this section will relate to a case-study of the new Accreditation Law in Denmark. This will be followed up by statements from writers, likewise used to describe the history of employability, as well as ideas from the British economist, Alison Wolf. The very same section will
also introduce employability as a personal experience, when having to perform a reality-check of this during a conference.
Dilemmas and Consequences for Employability
Employability has in recent years been the key concept when discussing labour market policies in Europe. Summing up, it is a question of emerging as attractive to an employer from the beginning to the end of working life - with a key focus on the transition from higher education to the first job. For this reason, as can be read from the foregoing employability discourse, both candidates, industry and society have a problem if the education has not done the graduate pot ready for the labour market when he/she receives his/hers degree certificate. Hence, employability has gained the upper hand and has been taken up by governments who joined hands with the business world. Not being able to influence labour demand, they have ended up building the whole government policy around labour supply – or employability. No one is asking where employability comes from or whether universities and other educational bodies actually need this move towards employability (Chertkovskaya, 2013). As it is now, politicians, and industry, or industry through politicians, try to get students through as fast as possible. Therefore, students are not getting a chance to go into depth with their studies, which otherwise was mentioned as an important aspect in the definition by BFUG. Moreover, it cannot be shown that students have gone into depth with their studies, since students that either take the easy way or the in-depth way will end up with the same paper. The students that took the easy way could instead use their time on other matters, such as volunteering or student jobs – all generic skills that will look good on a CV and be valued by the employer, as can be seen above. The student that went into depth will on the other hand have a hard time to go into other matters (CV valued) and will not look as good for employers, and maybe not be hired, even though they might have a better knowledge – at least specific skills - within their field. These changing and difficult-to-define skill requirements of organizations raise serious doubts about the objectivity of hiring decisions, despite the actual efforts on the part of recruiters to focus on a candidate’s ‘competence’ to do the job in question (Brown et al., 2004). According to Laura Louise Sarauw, conversely past ideals, at least in a Danish aspect, of independent specialized academic knowledge also requires almost superhuman powers. Firstly, because the number of pre-defined competencies has become so large that in practice only
a few hours are left for self-contemplation. The second reason is that the focus at the same time has been placed around a continuous measuring of student activities and performance during their studies (Sarauw, 2012, p. 223). A major problem confronting researchers interested in issues of employability is the lack of theoretically informed studies. The policy discourse is dominated by employer concerns about the supply of graduates, which is receiving little conceptual or empirical analysis. At best it is informed by human capital hypothesis that is focussing on the problem of how to develop the appropriate employability skills of the workforce. Issues concerning the demand of knowledge workers, or the way organizations make the most of the capabilities of those entering the workforce, are largely ignored. It is argued that the policy focus on raising employability skills is imperfect, since it fails to understand the realities of the knowledge economy and the dual conflict that it brings about (Brown et al., 2004). As described by Alison Wolf, there is given the impression of a need for a transparent relationship:
“It seems as if paper qualifications are the first tick in the box, and then employers move on to the real selection. The evidence for casual links between the qualification levels of a population and conventional measures of economic success are, however, much more tenuous – though this does not prevent the relationship from underpinning much policy rhetoric and activity. (Wolf, 2002, p. 13)
Therefore it makes sense that students choose only to do what is required to make it through their degree. It seems as it is better to use one’s time on other things, than going into depth with one’s studies. There is a clear incoherence between pushing the employability agenda forward in terms of skills and competencies at the university and the non-teaching of social and cultural capital that actually makes people employable. This can be related to science journalist Lone Frank, who proclaims that the students today need to finish higher education as an ‘intellectual Swiss knife’ (Danmarks Radio, 2013). The students have with this feature learned to rake knowledge in lightning fast time and are at the same time able to use it.
Maybe all of this could be changed if generic skills were better taught in the higher education institutions, so students should not get a chance to go the easy way, but instead be encouraged to go into depth with their studies both in and outside the curriculum. Having a chance to attend the 1st Asia-Europe Students’ Forum in Groningen as a representative for Denmark, I had a personal experience in working around and examine employability with other representative students from participating countries in Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF). In the forum, named ‘Are You Fir for the Future?’ it was stated in the programme that:
“In times of economic crisis and quickly rising student numbers, not only countries need to improve access to education, but also to develop the right type of skills and research to be more competitive and ensure sustainable growth. Unemployment rates, job mismatch and wage differentials are some signs of the disparity between the required skills and the educational programmes offered.” (ASEF, 2012, p. 9)
During the forum, the issue of employability was discussed – not as a problem, but instead as something that was very important to focus on. Moreover, it was mentioned that close cooperation between education and industry at international, regional and local levels is a core element for ensuring the employability of the young generation entering the workforce. More specifically, it was mentioned as one of the goals of higher education. All participating graduates and students, including myself, were to perform a so-called realitycheck during the conference: What are students’ expectations of working life? What are the experiences of graduates? Moreover, how did the university education prepare them for the workplace? Which skills really matter? And what should be the role of stakeholders outside the university? The objectives were likewise clearly stated, as having to identify institutional measures within the university education that help students to learn the skills for life and employment. In addition to this, there was also discussion on how such measures could be improved and/or adjusted to respond to workplace contexts and a finalizing analysis of how, and if, community engagement and volunteering/youth work could contribute to (soft) skills development. Of course, I agree with the statement of the forum that employability is an aspect to consider. Employability is important, but it is also necessary that the students get a chance to go into depth
with their studies, and not only focus on getting ready for the labour market. Higher education is time for contemplation, formation and reflection. It develops not only an employable person, but also a person who during the education will be better able to acquire new knowledge and reflect on their own practice. Education is not just about function, but also as a human being to have a stronger foundation that one in interaction with practice builds on (ASEF, 2012); an issue that most participants in the forum agreed upon, and also can be related to the thoughts of Bridgstock mentioned earlier. Recognising that the aim of education and learning should not be limited to employability alone, but that it encompasses a humanistic understanding of global citizenship, the many ASEF university student representatives recommended, among others, the following to university and business leaders:
Universities should include time management training in their teaching and learning environment. Universities should sensitize students for diversity throughout their studies. Students should be enabled to make informed choices about designing their own curricula, which should include soft skills learning and counselling. Students should be considered as equal partners in creating their education.
The first three of the above â€˜suggestionsâ€™ were pre-defined for discussion, whereas the latter was something that after discussion with the conference leaders was approved as a recommendation. Hence, not much freedom to decide what should be discussed. It must be said that the conference was very short and a fixed framework therefore was necessary. However, the conference was a personal experience that, to some extent, reemphasized that fertile ground is provided for the strong impetus for employability.
All in all, different definitions on employability are not difficult to find. Employability seems to be the buzz-word within research of higher education (Leggatt-Cook, 2007), and as shown above it is elaborated in diverse agencies within a union and by different writers. One thing is being a buzzword, and therefore very populistic, another thing is also how it relates to the so-called demandside and supply-side factors.
Given the above rhetoric of individualism in the discourse of employability, it seldom accounts for the complex interweaving of individual supply-side features, personal circumstances and external demand-side factors that have an impact on the employability of all individuals (McQuaid & Lindsay, 2005). Instead, there is a heavy, and very one-sided focus on the supply-side, or individual focus, in academic and policy oriented literature on employability (Brown, Green, & Lauder, 2001; Leggatt-Cook, 2007; McQuaid & Lindsay, 2005). Brown even goes as far as describing the supplyside focused definitions of employability as ideologically loaded, since they fail to account for the duality of employability. More specific, he instead believes that employability depends on both individual capabilities and an assortment of factors that are external to the individual (Brown et al., 2001; Brown & Lauder, 2012). These aspects will be taken up in an alternative model for the understanding of employability in higher education institutions. A further description and analysis of the issue of demand-side and supply-side will now be carried out. The issues described in the following section will take point of departure in the arguments mentioned by writers in the two prior sections.
Demand-side and Supply-side
Given the history of employability above, it is safe to say, that it has been widely accepted that the forces of global competition, but also innovation, in technology and workplace practices have given a change in the requirements from employers concerning skills and, hence, a change in focus on the supply-side. Following, there has, however, been criticism of the discourse of employability as having a predominant focus on the supply-side nature of the employment relationship and the attendant emphasis on the responsibility of the individual for labour market outcomes. In a similar manner, this conflict view on employability holds that the educational expansion is actually not reflecting a greater demand for high-skilled employees. It is rather a question of credential inflation (Leggatt-Cook, 2007). Since more people are now taking an education than earlier, the value of oneâ€™s academic papers has likewise fallen, when showing them to a possible employer. Some companies go as far as giving more emphasis on the personality test than basic skills (Bruun, 2013). Subsequently, this has given rise to the emphasis on personal qualities and so-called soft/generic skills, when the employers are to choose from possible employees (Brown et al., 2003), but also to frame a debate around skills shortages. That said, the supply-side emphasis in
employability policy, that aims to address skills shortages, has given very little comments and analyses of the demand-side. Here, employers have a key role to play in the creation of job opportunities and recruiting people (Leggatt-Cook, 2007, p. 35). Following the above, employability cannot be defined only in terms of the individual. Brown, Hesketh & Williams have consequently defined two dimensions â€“ the absolute and the relative. Combining these two is a matter of grasping the duality of employability (Brown et al., 2003). When policy debate around employability is taking place, it is often only with focus on the former of the two dimensions and therefore a question of whether the students have the appropriate skills, knowledge and commitment. In spite of this, there has been an increasing policy emphasis on graduate employability that shows the raising importance of knowledge, skills and commitment from the employees as a source of efficiency, innovation and productivity. On the other hand, we have the relative concept that depends on the laws of supply and demand within the market jobs (Brown et al., 2003). If there were enough jobs for graduates, this would not be a problem, as we would assume that every one of them would get a job. Nevertheless, this is not the case, as we now all over Europe, and the rest of the world, see huge unemployment rates, especially among young graduates (Perrino De Urrutia, 2012). Demand matters more than what has been acknowledged at the moment (Holm & Clemans, 2013). The above findings are now to be actualized with a case-study of Denmark. First, it will be analysed how employability was applied into a Danish context. With the use of the findings from Sarauw, the following will, moreover, analyse how the implementation of the Bologna Process had a strong impetus for a view of employability focusing on skills that were directly applicable in relation to an expected demand in the labour market. All the while, a new Accreditation Law is gaining ground in Denmark as we speak. Here, it will be analysed to what extent consisting attention is still, to a larger degree, given to employability in higher education institutions in Denmark.
3.10. The Role of Employability in Denmark Looking at how employability was implemented in Denmark, in relation to how the role of higher education institutions has changed, there have been several cases where this can be seen. One is the University Law of 2003, officially implemented with references to the Bologna Process, where changes have been made (Retsinformation, 2003). One of the things here is that different higher
education institutions must describe how the employability is when graduating with that specific degree. This means that higher education must be accredited by the Accreditation Institution in Denmark. Another issue is a so-called Globalizing Council constructed in 2005. The ideas of this council were to find some people, that could help the state of Denmark to get through the issues and difficulties that followed with globalizing. The big problem was, however, that this council was made up by a majority of politicians and many employers or CEOs and only few relating to education or research. Later on, a researcher from the council has proclaimed that, even though she felt that she did not have her voice muffled, the discussions did in practice not leave remarkable traces in the conclusions, although there were often rather great factual arguments (Aarsland, 2006). One of the things that this council instead focussed on was employability. This of course had very much to do with an issue of CEOs being in the council (Statsministeriet, 2005), and moreover persuading the politicians, that a focus on employability was very important. Something that can be related to the later description of the Danish behaviour under the Bologna Process negotiations. Additionally, there were no representatives from the students, which the Danish Youth Council also had feared:
â€œThe appointment of the board shows a lack of innovation and courage. [We] fear that the composition will reflect that it largely becomes a debate towards business. But it is important to involve young people, because it is we who must be prepared for an increasingly globalized society.â€? (author's own translation, U-landsnyt, 2005)
This gives reason for looking into how the Bologna Process was negotiated and implemented in a Danish context with a strong impetus for employability. Under the negotiation of the process, Denmark was, as one of the only membership countries, really eager to push forward the impetus for employability. For them, it was mostly a matter of getting employability integrated as much as possible in the Bologna Process, and the rest of the purposes were neglected more. More specifically, Laura Louise Sarauw expresses in her PhD thesis, Kompetencebegrebet og andre stileĂ¸velser, that the former Danish Ministry of Science took education and democracy objectives
out of the international Bologna goals, when they were written out of the University Law of 2003 and the Accreditation Act of 2007 (Sarauw, 2011). Sarauw further postulates that:
"...the conditions for education development in the Danish universities were changed dramatically after the University Law of 2003. This came as a so-called qualifications framework, which basically has forced education in a historic new alignment as a linear trajectory for specific job functions." (author's own translation, ForskerForum, 2011)
Her PhD is based on studies of Danish and international proposals and is based on the Danish interpretation of the Bologna Process, which from 1999 onwards would be the basis for renewed cooperation between higher education in Europe. Through her thesis, one can read how she critically deals with how this launch influenced the curriculum and plans for studentsâ€™ learning. There is no doubt that there is a massive labour market orientation taking place everywhere in the Western world, but according to Sarauw, the former Ministry of Science decided for an extremely one-sided market-oriented line, which otherwise is only one of the four objectives of the common European Bologna Process. Previously, it had been analyses of research policies that had been in focus, but her thesis is an attempt to describe what has happened with the aspects of education. With this focus, she believes that the goal of educating students has changed dramatically (Sarauw, 2012). The specific Danish requirements for competency-based curricula from 2003, resulted, according to Sarauw, in a radical redefinition of the requirements for what students should learn. In that belief, she also states that the political focus on the labour market relevance has resulted in a negative unification of education. The new curricula thereby marks a whole new way of designing and thinking about education that, according to her PhD, is compromising with the professional quality (Sarauw, 2012). Curricula are nowadays increasingly based on unique and measurable activities, intended to lead graduates directly into jobs. Where previously knowledge and personal development were highest on the list, labour market relevance is today the recurring mantra (ForskerForum, 2011). It is a question of focus on employability. Having the curricula previously focused on academic content and contemplation, they must now be labour-oriented, as all the curricula is on pre-defined applications and job functions in the labour market. While official
Bologna documents had broad focus on both labour market relevance, democratic citizenship, personal development and the development of a broad knowledge base as an ideal, the Danish Ministry of Science completed, with the use of the University Law of 2003, a narrow interpretation exclusively on the basis of labour market relevance. From Sarauwâ€™s thesis, one can see that the Danish qualification framework, at least within human science, changed the traditional focus on academic immersion and democratic citizenship, to the new requirements of the labour market relevance. The former was thus silently neglected. The Danish reform is supported, according to Sarauw (2012), by a mindset of being able to predict the future demand and that recruiters can define what they want. Conversely, the international Bologna documents, after all, contrast a small post-industrial mindset on the university as having diversity in a knowledge society, and not just a strict orientation towards specific job functions and requirements of qualifications. Although the requirement of labour market relevance has led to a significant change in the overall policy framework, within which the academic and educational process is articulated and legitimized, the Danish university is not yet organized in a 1:1 ratio for all specific job functions. According to Sarauw, universities must also look inward:
"... in line with the previous epistemological-democratic elements such as 'knowledge and understanding' and 'long-term socio-bearing perspective' are translated into application-oriented competence, as were the educations themselves co-producers of the market discourse that subjects actually opposed against.â€? (author's own translation, ForskerForum, 2011)
Given the research and following analysis above, I wish to go further into depth with this issue in the form of a case study. As we speak now, a new Accreditation Law for higher education institutions in Demark is under implementation. A policy analysis of this implementation will show that the nation of Denmark is still having a strong, if not stronger, impetus for quality and relevance, and therefore a strong focus on employability â€“ altogether in a labour market orientation. This analysis will use the actual law proposal and the following notes as well as consultation responses and the collecting consultation report.
3.10.1. Accreditation Law 2013
As part of its globalization strategy, proposed by the government at that time in 2006, higher education should be systematically quality and relevance assured. By extension, it was decided to set up an independent accreditation body, which was responsible for accrediting all higher education. This accreditation body was named The Accreditation Agency and completed in autumn 2010 an independent international evaluation for the purpose of inclusion in the European Quality Assurance Register (EQAR). The evaluation concluded that the accreditation system is living up to the common European standards and guidelines for quality assurance. The independent international evaluation of the Accreditation Agency further stated that accreditation at the institutional level - instead of educational level - should be considered. Given that all higher education in Denmark now is being integrated into the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Higher Education (MSIHE), and to ensure the best possible range of educational programs across sectors, it has become a wish to have a common accreditation system for all higher education institutions under MSIHE (Retsinformation, 2012). In connection with the change in the accreditation system for higher education, from relying on education accreditation to be based on institutional accreditation, there must be a number of consequential amendments to the relevant institutionsâ€™ related legislations. The proposal amends the related regulations so that they take account of the new draft law on accreditation of higher education institutions (Retsinformation, 2012). A law amending the Universities Law, the Law on Vocational Education and Professional Education and Law on Vocational Oriented Training and Higher Education for Adults were therefore likewise put forward, as the former proposal had consequences for the latter. It is stated by the Minister of MSIHE, that the draft law on accreditation of higher education institutions reorganized the existing quality assurance of higher education under MSIHE for one new common system, based on institutional accreditation. With institutional accreditation, the focus was shifted from recurring accreditation of individual programs to a more holistic assessment of the educational institutions' own security and development of educational quality and relevance. The new joint accreditation system would on one hand help to support and develop the institutions' internal quality culture and on the other hand ensure that the institutions' own 49
quality assurance systems met the European standards of quality work. Institutional accreditation would be supplemented by review of individual education or training provision with specific quality challenges and the possibility of cross-cutting evaluations. To support greater consistency in the higher education system, prequalification of new education and training provisions was likewise to be introduced (MSIHE, 2012a). Before the proposal was put forward the 6th of February 2013, it had gone under a very thorough hearing round, as is the norm in Denmark. A total of more than 100 different organizations and authorities received the two proposals, and 62 hearing answers were returned to the Ministry. More specifically this study will look into the issues of educational quality and relevance as mentioned by the Minister in the proposal. Due to the length of this thesis, it is not found possible to go through all of the consultation responses. Therefore two answers were selected â€“ each having very different agendas. The first one is from The Confederation of Danish Industry (DI). This is a private organisation funded, owned and managed entirely by 10,000 companies within manufacturing, trade and service industry. They see their mission as providing the best possible corporate conditions for Danish businesses, in order to improve the opportunities for growth and overall competitiveness (DI, 2013). The second is DM, the Danish Association of Masters and PhDs. According to their webpage, two of their main focus areas are gender equality and academic freedom. It is a traditional trade union in addition to a professional association for people with a university degree, and they advise their members on the rules and opportunities in the labour market, as well as help to secure the best possible pay and working conditions. For DM, it is an important task to fight for a working life with decent pay and working conditions for each individual member of their organization (DM, 2013). Looking at how DI explains their view on the proposal, with an emphasis on educational quality and relevance, it is obvious to see that they condone the legislative reform proposals as presented by MSIHE. Very explicitly, they find it extremely important, that the new accreditation system ensures, that only the education which is needed on the labour market, must be offered (DI, 2012, p. 21). DI continues, when stating the importance of new institution accreditation to help to support and build the internal quality culture in educational institutions and contribute to a heightened awareness, to ensure their relevance to the labour market. Moreover, DI questions
how the criteria for institutional accreditation and criteria for how the internal quality assurance should be constructed. In a proposal, they, however, describe that they find it important that quality systems are based on robust management information systems and procedures, to promote education quality and labour market relevance. To sum the consultation response from DI up, by using their own words, they find it extremely important that the new accreditation system will place great emphasis on education relevance to the labour market (DI, 2012, p. 22). DM likewise focuses on the issue of relevance and quality. Their focus is, in spite of this, very different from that of DI. It is the view of DM that an education naturally must be relevant for the society, which funds education in Denmark. That said, DM points out aspects, where the historical development of higher education contains numerous examples of an education, which one day was considered less relevant, suddenly, due to changes in external factors, had a serendipitous relevance in a societal context. Very specifically, they pin point the example of proposing to close down Chinese studies in Denmark. This was only 15 years ago, and it would have been a great damage for the nation of Denmark, and its relation to China, if that would have happened (DM, 2012, p. 4). For that reason, DM states that relevance cannot be measured only by the number of applications and the employment rate for graduates of the educational area. Although the usefulness of the rate of employment as an indicator is modified by an over-average unemployment, as that triggers a special interest and educational accreditation, the opinion of DM is that it could as well be a problem, which is located on the demand-side as well as the educational institutions. They see it as problematic, that educational institutions are made responsible for labour market conditions, which are out of control for the institutions. Overall, DM does not believe that the relevance of higher education can be assessed solely on the basis of student application or immediate dismissal on the current segment of the labour market. The latter is based on the fact that many humanists lately have been employed in private companies and public administration. This shows that they have found work in areas in which nobody had imagined that the education could provide employment opportunities. Finally, DM encourages MSIHE to take a more nuanced approach to the question about educational relevance in a broad societal context (DM, 2012, p. 4). Following up on the aspect of quality in their consultation response, DM considers it a shortcoming that there have been no reflections on the relationship between the external
assessment and accreditation and the internal quality development and assurance procedures, which are available at the institutions. According to them, no account is taken of the fact that quality is achieved in the educational process in the interaction between qualified educators and active, engaged students. This can also be related to the quality definition mentioned by Harvey & Green, that both the lecturers and students are part of the production process and therefore making it depended on the characteristics of the two. For this reason, DM sees it as a major shortcoming that no seat in the Accreditation Council has been reserved to one with an educational background and experience. They recognize that it is obviously important to have knowledge of accreditation, but to disregard a basic educational experience in the proposal is, according to them, a great deficiency. Therefore, they are afraid that the process will be looking backward rather than forward in the development of quality (DM, 2012, pp. 4-5).
As always, after each round of consultations, MSIHE collected all the received responses to a consultation report with corresponding responses from the Minister. Since many proposals, but also acknowledgements, were put forward, it seems, understandably, impossible for the Minister to relate to all of them in the consultation report. The expectation about the high weight on labour market relevance from DI was likewise put forward by different institutions in the form of Danish Business, Financial Sector Employers' Association, The Finance Council and The Leaders. The Minister hereby informed that 2-3 criteria were set to address the needs (social needs, societal needs and development needs), relevance (the education meets the needs identified) and coherence in an educational system (access, training opportunities, geographical coverage, internship agreements) (MSIHE, 2012b, p. 7). A very short answer, where relevance as such was not further elaborated on and only defined as meeting the needs identified. However, from the point of DI, it seems as if they had been heard. The issue of reserved seats for one with an educational background and experience, as put forward by DM, was also answered by the Minister. It is clarified in the comments that the Accreditation Council should have a knowledge to cover all higher education programs offered at the institutions covered by the law, and that there must be understanding of customers' needs. There should, nevertheless, not in the explanatory notes be added permanent constraints on who
should/can sit in the Accreditation Council, including the reservation of seats for specific skills, that the Minister’s right to appointment becomes illusory (MSIHE, 2012b, p. 10). The great concern of relevance by DM was nowhere to be found in the consultation report. Acknowledging the huge amount of answers and proposals, it must nevertheless be said to have been neglected by MSIHE. Conversely, relevance and quality have become keen issues in the comments to the final legislative proposals produced 6th of February, 2013. Here it is clearly stated that:
“In light of the current economic challenges, it is essential that resources for ensuring quality are used targeted and that higher education has coherence across sectors and current labour market needs. The total higher education supply must be designed in an economically appropriate manner and educate graduates who contribute to renewed growth and innovation in Denmark.” (author's own translation, Folketinget, 2013, p. 6)
Following, as mentioned in the comments, Denmark is through the Bologna Process required to follow the common European quality standards, ESG, which were endorsed by the European Ministers of Higher Education in May 2005. The standards address both educational institutions' internal quality and external quality assurance, and institutional accreditation should, according to the comments, be developed within the framework that the ESGs form:
“The ESG's are the framework for quality assurance. Under the present system of education accreditation additionally emphasis is on the need for and relevance of the individual programs in relation to the labour market and related programs.” (author's own translation, Folketinget, 2013, p. 11)
Very specifically, it is finally stated in the comments that relevance criteria will, among other things, address educational institutions to ensure that programs reflect current labour market needs. Similarly, educational institutions must demonstrate that they are part of an ongoing dialogue with employers and graduates on the development of education and educational choices. In addition, the educational institution must continuously focus on graduates' labour market situation, including employment and unemployment rates. The criteria will be determined after
discussion with, inter alia, educational institutions and representatives of recruiters (Folketinget, 2013, p. 24). Both quality and relevance is, hence, recurring themes in the proposal for the new Accreditation Law in Denmark - a theme that likewise can be strongly related to the persuaded necessary need of higher education institutions’ sugar - employability.
Having described and analysed the history and different definitions of employability, separate views of quality, stakeholders, the discourses surrounding us, dilemmas and consequences, demand-side and supply-side, challenges for skills and academic freedom, research on employability and a case-study on the Accreditation Law in Denmark, this now leads on to the earlier described alternative model to engage in the issues of employability, taking point of departure in the ideas described by Tom Schuller et al. More specifically, in relation to this thesis, it is obvious to question how to look at quality and relevance, hence employability, within higher education.
3.11. An Alternative Model for Employability To use the words by Martha Nussbaum (2010), the higher education institutions are at a cross road of deciding between the human development model and the growth model. The first model is based on the Socratic human nature, that education is taking point of departure in the intention to make the individual to a fellow citizen, in which dialogue, openness, critical thinking, reasoning and commitment are just as important for individual development and the creation of equal democratic opportunities. The latter model suggests that we must be educated in such a way, that we become a skilled resource for enterprises. The focus of all education is what the business demands and therefore a variety of tests are introduced to ensure that this objective is met. Instead of specific skills, generic skills, such as team-work and flexibility, are now demanded and maybe also more valued. According to Nussbaum, we are now seeing how:
“… education systems all over the world are moving closer and closer to the growth model, without much thought about how ill-suited it is to the goals of democracy.” (Nussbaum, 2011) 54
Cross road or not, we are definitely at a time of changes in higher education institutions. Based on the ideas described by Tom Schuller, as well as John Bynner and Leon Feinstein in the discussion paper Capital and Capabilities (2004), the following will now describe an alternative model for ways of looking at, but also tackling, the issue of employability in higher education institutions.
I want to describe and come with suggestions for a change of focus in higher education institutions. This will, as described, be done with the ideas by Tom Schuller et al. He focuses on not only human capital, but also on social capital and identity capital, as well as he relates them to the issue of capabilities. Education generates, alongside the traditional knowledge and skill-based capabilities, the less tangible personal and social capabilities; it provides a means of achieving the kinds of functioning identified with social and identity capital. Human capital needs to be augmented by other forms of capital in order for its prospective contribution to personal, social, and economic well-being to be properly appreciated. Without essential levels of social capital, in the forms of access to relevant networks, skills cannot be mobilised and utilised. Without good levels of identity capital, membership of networks will not pay dividends in the workplace and the community (Schuller et al., 2004). We need a comprehensive approach to the curriculum that also addresses the social and personal facets of functioning, which make up the quality of life. The challenge of today’s mass higher education systems is how we can address both societal needs and individual expectations. Here, I will discuss the abovementioned issues of employability and how we with the use of Schuller et al.’s ideas can come up with another view of higher education that is not predominantly focussed on the market influence of employability, but addresses both societal needs and the expectations of the graduates.
Tom Schuller, John Bynner and Leon Fenstein describe how there throughout recent years have been a gradual augmentation of the economists’ term ‘capital’. The term is now involving social, cultural, psychological, but also human and financial assets available for investment. In their discussion paper, questions are consequently raised on whether the term from an economist
world can still be used in a wider usage. The ideas described by the development economist Amartya Sen are similarly introduced in their paper. Here it is described, how he introduces the different, but related, notion of ‘capability’ to describe the possibility to realize desired levels of functioning in different aspects of one’s life. According to Schuller, Bynner and Fenstein there are clear, but unsatisfactorily investigated, correspondence between Sen’s notion and those inferred by dissimilar appearances of capital. With the discussion paper, they depict the fundamental aspects of the notion of capital in different usages of economists. They, moreover, explore the links between the concept of capital and that of capability, and finally bring the different types of capital into a single framework that makes the connections with policy more explicit - particularly policy in relation to higher education institutions. This is, according to the writers, helpful in the review of current policies directed at identifying gaps in the policy agenda. It also helps to frame more clearly the objectives to which education policy needs to be intended for and how they might be evaluated. Doing this, the discussions by Schuller, Bynner and Fenstein give light for a broader and more wide-ranging empirical approach to the idea of educational returns, as well as an alternative way of looking at employability and what is needed when judging quality and relevance. This following section is primarily a re-reading of Schuller, Bynner and Fenstein’s concerns on the usage of the term capital and an application of the issues around capabilities, as described by Sen – both relating to the earlier concerns in higher education institutions.
As mentioned previously in this thesis, we are now living in a knowledge-based society. Along with this, different concepts have gained grounds and importance – one of them is that of ‘capital’. Policies, and especially higher education policies in relation to this thesis, are now very focused on having students gaining the necessary capitals needed to successfully navigate the routes through education and the labour market, but also domestic and civic domains of adult life (Schuller et al., 2004). Much of the focus on capital is acknowledged with the gaining of what Sen calls capability. More specific, the potential to achieve desired functioning in various aspects of life (Sen, 1992). The connection between higher education, or education as such, and capital was specified with the emergence of human capital in the 1960s, promoted by mainly American economists such as
Gary Becker and Theodor Schultz, as an essential concept in economic and social analysis (Schuller et al., 2004) and can also be read in the earlier section. Following this, came social capital. Although the background of social capital goes back to the work of Pierre Bourdieu, initially published in the 1970s, social capital theory became extremely popular with the publication of Making Democracy Work by Robert Putnam in 1993. The concept of social capital used by Putnam has, however, noticeably differences from that of Bourdieu. Whereas Bourdieu (1986) described the social relations that an individual can mobilize to his benefit and suggested a mechanism for the reproduction of class relations, Putnam offered a theory of social capital that ignores and bypasses class divisions (Putnam, Nanetti, & Leonardi, 1993). According to Putnam, social capital is the collection of trust relations, non-hierarchical associative networks and norms of reciprocity that exist in society. One of the main appeals of social capital for Putnam is precisely that it sections hierarchical relations, including classes, in order to allow the rise of a civic culture shared by all groups. This culture, in turn, provides the fuel for a more efficient public administrations, better governance and, hence, superior economic performance. The main mechanism of social capital consists in the reduction of opportunistic behaviour that associative contacts and trust engender (Englebert, 2002, p. 3). The ideas and works of social capital by Putnam gave greater visibility to the earlier work of James Coleman. Whereas Putnam offers an institutional and essentially macroeconomic version of social capital theory, Coleman suggests a more direct and microeconomic interpretation of the concept, where social capital captures the family and associative networks that facilitate educational achievement. According to Coleman (1990), the effects of social capital include reciprocal expectations and obligations, reductions in information asymmetries and transaction costs, antiopportunistic norms, and ‘appropriable’ organizations, which, created for a specific purpose, produce social capital as a derived product. Following this, the World Bank developed with Michael Woolcock (1998) a distinction between ‘bonding’ social capital, which reinforces existing groups, and ‘bridging’ social capital, which brings distinct groups together. Social capital has since been lengthened to include identity capital (Schuller et al., 2004). It would be fair to say that few people consciously invest in their own identity. It is, however, believed that participation in learning can be very important for this in ways the participants themselves recognize. They realise this after the learning has taken place, so that investment is only
considered as such in retrospect, but it would be possible to think of such an investment as planned in advance (Schuller et al., 2004). For this reason, the different extensions of the uses of the term capital have sparked continuing dispute amongst a range of disciplines about how tightly it is to be defined. Schuller, Bynner and Fenstein describe this change of view of capital from merely an economic term, i.e. physical and financial resources, towards an extremely loose approach. Agreeing with this change, the latter can relatively be anything which can be looked upon as an asset or give some sort of return. The three writers have, as a result of this, portrayed different types of capital in a general framework. In the following, different discussions of the meaning of capital, its different features and possibility of application will take place. Since the research from the three writers showed many effects and a need of an interdisciplinary approach and a broad view of the individual, a model was conceptualized to show the diversity.
Figure 5. (Schuller et al., 2004, p. 5). 58
Describing the model, they define human capital as referring to knowledge, skills and qualifications; social capital to norms, networks and relationships; and identity capital to selfesteem, self-efficacy and a sense of purpose or direction in life (Schuller et al., 2004). The three capitals are hence making up the corners in the triangle. The capabilities are conversely located within the triangle and indicate the direct and indirect learning outcomes through which the diverse forms of capital accumulated. The relation to policy suggests itself as the means through which society play a part in the shaping of capabilities - most evidently through education. More specific, as also mentioned earlier, this should be looked at as an alternative to observe, but also confront, the issue of employability. The following will show what education policy wishes to achieve, how the returns to it need to be considered, but also how they can be measured.
Using the word capital in our society today signifies wealth â€“ it can be invested, it can be an asset owned by someone and, hence, make people materially wealthy. Conversely of this, economists classify capital as that which is or has been invested (Schuller et al., 2004). Albeit a large focus on financial assets in an economic world, the meaning is technically broader. The traditionally view on investment was investments in physical capital, but throughout time it has changed to include education. Education, and more specific higher education in relation to this thesis, is considered an investment in skills to earn a coming return. More concretely, investment in education can be regarded as speculation in human capital. According to Schuller, Bynner and Fenstein there are two different intentions for doing this. The first is very straightforward, and has to do with broadening the set of inputs to be considered as essential for the production of Gross Domestic Product. The second intention is contrastingly to expand the set of outputs that should be considered to be of intrinsic value. The tem social capital is not only to be valued because it increases the production of goods and services, but also as an end in itself (Schuller et al., 2004). This second intention can be associated with contemporary issues of happiness and can i.e. be found in the Bhutanese thinking of Gross National Happiness. An issue that is not to be elaborated further in this thesis, but can be found in Gross National Happiness and Social Progress: a Development Paradigm of Bhutan by Sonam Gyamtsho (2011).
The two intentions have very different associations to the use of the term capital. For this reason, the three writers present six different schematic observations about the rational necessities of the request of the term, to see whether it clarifies or blurs the understanding. Here they consider issues of investment; stocks; ownership; returns; distribution and fungibility. While it is now quite general jargon to talk about investing in human capital, this is of course a metaphor for investing in education, skills and competencies that is thought to give a future return, usually in an economic nature. Investment is much more than just finances, and as the case is in Denmark, where most higher education is monetary free, students still invest in their degree in the form of time and energy. In a higher education aspect, it permits people to invest in themselves, but also governments in their population. Direct investment from the latter means building schools, training professors, teachers, and so on (Schuller et al., 2004). Skills and competencies are, nevertheless, developed in other ways as well, i.e. through informal learning with fellow students. Hence, human capital is both gained from direct and indirect investments. Following this, Schuller, Bynner and Fenstein question whether social capital can be invested directly, or it only can be invested indirectly (Schuller et al., 2004). As trust is also the most used indicator of social capital, one can ask whether trust levels can be directly influenced in the same manner as providing more universities. Considering the issue of valuing stocks, the case of assessment of human capital is problematical. In general, the usual method of measurement is levels of qualifications achieved, or as the three writers more crudely depict it, the duration of education by years of schooling. Crude proxies for formed human capital, and it is therefore important to bear in mind that human capital is not the same as learning (Schuller et al., 2004). The fundamental of return to human capital is the value to the business of the extra output produced by the owner of the human capital, that is to say the wage. Measurement of human capital is consequently productivity and not learning (Schuller et al., 2004). Different aspect is hence to be acknowledged in the form of history, society and technology. Taking graduates from Cambridge or Harvard and placing them in Sudan will give a very different change in their productivity. There are likewise issues when measuring the value of social and identity capital. Nevertheless, the importance of these capitals have become greater than they have in the past, since there, according to Schuller, Bynner and Fenstein (2004), has been a shift from Taylorism to technology-
based and flattened structures. It can be questioned whether social capital can be stocked as other capitals, since it is inherent in relationships and not an attribute as such. At the same time, the issues around identity capital are how to find a way to sustain the capabilities, to use the word by Sen, which are needed in today’s society. A very economic idea of ownership is that if a person owns capital, he/she at the same time has the option to sell it or give it away. For human capital this is not the case. Once skills are acquired, one cannot lose ownership of them. It is for this reason additionally illegal to sell one’s obtained qualifications, as they were awarded on the basis of skills or knowledge. The three writers also try to make a crude interpretation of social capital in the form of one’s address book. On the other hand, the possession of the network is not lost if trying to sell them and cannot be handed over. This is also the case with identity capital (Schuller et al., 2004). Many jobs also require more than one person, so even though the ownership of capital remains at the individual level, the realisation of any value to it is reliant on others producing a part of the activity. In addition, social capital implies the involvement of at least two persons to be valued. Discussing the issue of return in capital, the three writers also acknowledge the issue of excess of capital and consequently a need to unpack the question of over-education:
“…is it a descriptive term about the state of the labour market than about education, or a more evaluative one about human nature, e.g. over-confidence reflecting the absence of other qualities such as empathy and humility? This line of argument confirms that we need multi-dimensional, and nonlinear, notions of capital accumulation.” (Schuller et al., 2004, p. 17)
Distribution, the fifth observation by Schuller, Bynner and Fenstein, is closely linked to that of ownership and return. In their discussion paper they use the statement about knowledge from the political movement, the Levellers, who related it to manure: if concentrated it stinks, but if spread around it brings benefits to all (Schuller et al., 2004). Given the picturesque explanation, it allows, according to the three writers’ justification, for a need of ‘bridging’ as well as ‘bonding’ components, outwards and inwards relationships, respectively, as earlier mentioned in this section.
Fungibility and interaction between capitals are the last observation described in the discussion paper. As seen in the other observations, financial assets can facilitate the gaining of human capital and maybe also access to more social capital. In today’s society there is, in spite of this, people with strong identity capital that have made use of this to counterbalance for low human capital in the form of no educational qualifications. On the other hand, low identity capital has also shown to be a hurdle for the mobilization of human capital for graduates, although they have a high degree. This could involve a difficult balancing act. Graduates need access to the networks, which grant the opening for deployment. In contrast, if having a high level of social capital this can discourage human capital in the form of lacking educational ambitions.
The six observations above have discussed the points of the triangle, but with the use of Sen’s term capabilities, the components within the triangle are reflected upon. These generally reflect the direct and indirect effects of education and learning, and help the three writers to show the great impact of the extensive scope of capitals to education policies. According to Sen, capabilities should be defined as “the various combinations of functioning’s (beings and doings) that the person can achieve” (Sen, 1992, p. 39). By linking it to functionings, Schuller, Bynner and Fenstein find two impacts. Firstly, if attained functionings represent the wellbeing of a person, capabilities make up the capacity and freedom to realize well-being. In addition, to the extent that choice and the capability to choose are self-evidently valuable, then accomplishing well-being itself is subject to capability (Schuller et al., 2004). This can also be related to the new trend towards ‘Social Return on Investment’; an aspect that will not be elaborated further in this thesis, but can be consulted in Social Return on Investment (SROI) and Performance Measurement by Kelly Hall and Ross Millar (2012). Knowledge, skills and understandings acquired through education that have value in the labour market, are the core capability components of human capital. Team-work, decision-making and time-management similarly constitute core capability elements of social capital. Lastly, selfconfidence, strong feelings of personal control and self-efficacy are the main capabilities of identity capital and along generic skills these are valued in the modern labour market. The question is then whether higher education produces these valued skills?
All in all, the three writers find the issue of capability, as presented by Sen, above all relevant, since:
â€œâ€Śwe should pay attention to potential which is there to be mobilised. Our three capitals, and perhaps capital itself as a generic concept, all denote assets which can be potentially mobilized to improve functioning in different domains and ultimately well-being, in an individual and a community sense, as a whole.â€? *emphasis in the original] (Schuller et al., 2004, p. 20)
This is elaborated further, as Schuller, Bynner and Fenstein state that there is a need to move away from narrow perceptions of capability concerned solely with labour market functioning, as also mentioned earlier by e.g. Bridgstock, to functioning in the broader scope of personal and social spheres of influence, through which full well-being is eventually realized (Schuller et al., 2004). A second characteristic that links capital and capabilities, in accordance with the three writers, is the issue of reproduction. People learn how to learn and learning gives more learning, as well as networks grow when used. It is important to remember that capability refers to potential rather than achieved functionings (Schuller et al., 2004). So when discussing human capital, social capital and identity capital, with the above in mind, it needs to be looked at as a capability-based property, which exist and can be organized to harvest returns. Additionally, these returns can benefit more than just one person. Lastly, capabilities are regarded as combinations of doings and beings that a person may possibly achieve, but has not up till now (Schuller et al., 2004). To relate this to higher education institutions, it can be seen as a place to convert capability into functioning. Concerning this relation, Schuller, Bynner and Fenstein give five major implications to take into account in the policy thinking of higher education. The five implications are headlined as follows (2004):
1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
multidimensional approach accumulation and realisation of assets capitals interact with each other many assets lie under the surface of society demonstrate empirically
The former relates to the need of assessing the expansion of exploitation of assets. The market thinking of human capital needs to be changed and must be augmented to other capitals in order to have the full potential. Following, the second and third implication is respectively concerning issues of lifelong measuring and a respect for the need of all three capitals. The penultimate is further elaborated and stressing the case for a truly inclusive approach to the curriculum that addresses, alongside the economic, the social and identity functionings that in the end structures the quality of life. Finally, Schuller, Bynner and Fenstein stress the need for instruments which have room for interaction and holism. This broad point of view will give a better meaning to the returns of higher education.
3.12. Summary of Employability As shown in the prior sections, there seems to be a strong impetus for employability with a focus on the labour market within the field of higher education. It can be seen, that the industry has a strong voice when debating this. Given that they have acquired this power, they can more easily get through with their impetus â€“ employability. Having this kind of power, it seems as if they have a strong say for what kind of studies the required skills can be acquired from and hereafter give access to specific jobs. This represents an issue that gives very little academic freedom, if possibility at all, for the students to compose different programs within higher education. When industry contains this power, there could be the possibility that studies become very field specific and narrow, that it in some way could be related to an industry-controlled meritocracy. The thinking on meritocracy, or the tightening bond between education, jobs and rewards, as described by Durkheim (1956), has dominated much of our thinking about education, employment, and social mobility throughout the last century. Additionally, it also has much in common with human capital assumptions concerning the increasing value of people rather than machines, as described earlier in this thesis. There is strong evidence that higher education policy makers are well aware of all of the above challenges they face. Provided that, there is little evidence that this has led to an integrated view of which stakeholders are to play what role in higher education.
3.12.1. Future Challenges for Skills
As seen from the research above, there has been a broad focus on competencies, an issue that is also mentioned in the notions of employability. When having described employability it was, among others, mentioned that the right set of skills and competencies were necessary to be employable. However, when looking at the research undertaken, it gives the impression of some discrepancy to this. When talking about skills one has to acknowledge the presence of both required and acquired skills. Acquired skills are the skills that graduates supposedly are to gain when attending a higher education. These are what are written in the curriculum â€“ a curriculum that the industry, from the examined research above, has a chance to develop or at least influence. The required skills are on the other hand the skills that employers require when hiring graduates. The correlation between acquired and required skills is nevertheless not always strong. There can be several reasons for this. Higher education actually has a curriculum where they teach exactly what is in the curriculum, but this is notwithstanding an improper behaviour on their part. They still have autonomy to propose different programmes or at least teaching methods that could foster other dimensions, apart from the employability agenda - not to mention more robust profiles. The state has however abandoned the position that knowledge, learning and capability enhancement has an independent value, because they have let the market define what skills students should come out with. As it is now, a linear trajectory is taking place. Universities are controlled by politicians; politicians are influenced by the industry; the industry is demanding certain skills from prospective employees - a division which is giving the industry a major impact on universities. Maybe something that, in the end, prevents innovation and entrepreneurship, because the defined competencies may be blocking creativity. The big problem is how these skills are taught (and thought). Here, it is a question of giving students generic skills and not only specific skills. Generic skills are what the industry needs, or at least that is what they are demanding, and also what they hire people on. Supposedly, graduates are to be given the same specific skills, and therefore employers are looking for something different â€“ an aspect where the generic skills become very important. Brown et al. actually go as far as calling generic skills the new vocational (2004, p. 46). Furthermore, employers want 'oven ready' graduates who will contribute to the profits of their company without further training. This is nevertheless increasingly unlikely, partly because graduate-level jobs have become more 65
specialized, but also because many universities fail to produce the right kind of graduate. All in all, the skills that the industry requires are not always what are acquired in higher education. This is especially true about the generic (soft) skills, where research e.g. shows that these skills are best, and maybe only, learned in a workplace â€“ since you learn to work by working (Mason, Williams, & Cranmer, 2009). It must also be claimed, that the increasing use of 'benchmarks' for different university disciplines means that what little content graduates assimilate is increasingly predictable and homogenized (Chertkovskaya, 2013). The above researches also show that both higher education institutions and industry are aware of this and try to cooperate some of the required skills into teaching and research, which also can be seen in a later described â€˜Triple Helix modelâ€™. This, however, seems only as talk, as much teaching is still classroom-based and therefore not much cooperation/team-work skills will be learned. Teachers simply do not want to change, or the institutions have a hard time changing the role of the teachers to be more as a guide. At the same time, the research shows that industries do not open much up to implementing students in the work life, but instead dictate what is to be learned. More and better cooperation is therefore necessary. But how should we look at employability quality as well as relevance within higher education, and is the above draw of stakeholders the discourse we should follow? It could as an example be questioned what kind of stakeholder role the students should have. Some might proclaim that the students, or learners, are already a stakeholder with a voice under universities, governments as well as industries. However, from research this is debatable. The following, based on a magazine from the Department of Education, Aarhus University, which had a theme about employability, will now illustrate the lack of academic freedom for the students, in line with the major focus on employability, as described by Peder Holm-Pedersen in an interview with Gritt B. Nielsen.
3.12.2. Prodigal Academic Freedom
As the research from HEGESCO showed, academic freedom among students has also been narrowed. There is a lot of talk about freedom of research, however, the freedom of academia is absent in current discussions about higher education institutions. If we go back in time, academic freedom has been the students' right and duty to challenge and independently examine the
teachings they were represented for at the university. More specifically, Humboldt coined the term ‘Lernfreiheit’ (Holm-Pedersen & Nielsen, 2012). Later, academic freedom was presented, among other things, by the student movement’s challenge with the professorial power that resulted in the students gaining access to different boards and, at least on paper, gained power over their subject. This kind of freedom is not seriously espoused by anyone today, not even the students, as the research also shows. The students do not see the professional political engagement as part of being a student. For many, it is actually just an extra burden because they do not have time, nor feel like doing it. Instead of ownership and this form of participation, students today are perhaps more given only a free choice. A free choice, with some restrictions, to select their education, choosing between courses and make their views known through the many evaluations of the courses (Holm-Pedersen & Nielsen, 2012) – evaluation that, however, are made for, and not by, them. In one way or another, it therefore maybe appears to be about choice rather than voice. Instead of engaging in the academic discussions and thereby affect their studies, many of the students give their views by choosing something else. This may also make the students get an even stronger feeling of being a consumer and it makes education and learning a commodity that students more or less must invest in. Summing up, there seems to be a lack of progress despite the research above. If the research cannot show the positive need and relation to competencies in employability it could relate to an imbalance an under-representation of stakeholders. The question is whether it is time to make sure that academic freedom traditionally holds values of democratic formation and independence that students, and society as such, could benefit from if came back on track (Holm-Pedersen & Nielsen, 2012). This should be thought of as a supplement to a little too narrow view of employability. Otherwise, one may be risking that some of the qualities that are wanted to promote in higher education is undermined due to the consequences of different models around employability. Throughout this section a model has suggested a way to overcome this undermining. The market thinking of higher education needs to be changed and must be augmented to other capitals in order to have the full potential, as well as it needs to be looked at as a capability-based property, which exist and can be organized to harvest returns. Furthermore, it should additionally be
stressing the case for a truly inclusive approach to the curriculum that addresses, alongside the economic, the social and identity functionings that in the end structures the quality of life. All of this must take place with the use of instruments which have room for interaction and holism, and consequently give a better meaning to the returns of higher education.
3.12.3. Final Remarks on Employability
As mentioned earlier, employability is a buzz-word in todayâ€™s society and a term that is given much attention these days in higher education institutions. The above has presented a description of the history of employability as well as different definitions from various agencies relevant for this thesis. This has given reason for an analysis of different dilemmas and consequences for employability, challenges for skills and academic freedom, in addition to the issues concerning the struggle between demand-side and supple-side and views of different stakeholders. Furthermore, issues of the discourses surrounding us, quality definitions and research on employability have been studied and analysed. All of this has been actualized and consolidated with an analysis of the new Accreditation Law in Denmark, as well as a model in the areas of employability has been presented. From my point of view, the widespread emphasis on supply-side factors is having a strong voice in the debates around employability. Different policy debates on employability often show an implicit dependence on the rhetoric following neo-liberalism and its following focus on the individual in deciding labour market outcomes â€“ dominated by the needs, concerns and desires from the employer. There is a need to have a focus on both the individual factors, the personal circumstances as well as the external, demand-side factors. The latter is especially important in the case of recruitment, processes, obligations and responsibility of hiring graduates, as this is having a huge impact on employability. It is essential that more holistic frameworks and labour market interventions, that pay suitable respect to the demand-side of employability, is developed (Leggatt-Cook, 2007). Given this section on employability and its following aspects and consequences within a European framework, and very specific in a Danish agenda, I will in the following, in addition to describing the research aspect of higher education institutions, also relate this to employability. There has been a tendency to look separately at education and research in higher education, but I am of the
belief that these as such cannot be disassembled if a comprehensive overview of higher education institutions is wanted. Consequently, this thesis will explore how the current understanding of employability has had an impact on research in higher education. Provided that we also have got an insight, among many, to the concepts of quality in higher education and a view of the notion of employability within departments of a specific region, I wish to move on and see how these notions and views can be related to the future of universities as well as be seen in the perception of a knowledge production system as such. In addition, a model will be presented as a potential tool for discussion of employability in higher education institutions; more specifically the Triple Helix model, as described by Henry Etzkowitz.
4. The Future of Universities In the time we are in now, there have been questions about what the future holds for universities, but also higher education per se. One concern goes, that we are witnessing a transnational policy process aimed at the instrumental control of the university and the elimination of academic autonomy (Moutsios, 2012). Furthermore, there has been a large focus on employability. Along this, Martin and Etzkowitz have, among many, described two very contradictory hypothesis on the future for universities (Martin & Etzkowitz, 2000). First off, they present the ‘declinist’ hypothesis – a, from the writers’ point of view, pessimistic believe that the future of the university is under threat from governments and others, since they are expecting universities to do more useful things. This includes more applied knowledge, as well as to develop more useful skills in the students. This trend is seen to have the possibility of threatening the very integrity of universities along with their longstanding autonomy. Secondly, Martin & Etzkowitz present the ‘optimistic’ hypothesis. According to this, we are joining the alleged ‘knowledge-based economy’. The knowledge industry as such is no longer just a small situation for the intellectual elite, but rather a big enterprise that becomes extremely necessary for a nation. If this is to be followed, the two writers argue that the primary source of new knowledge and of the skills that are required for knowledge, could take place in the universities and hence become an engine for this economy. When following the ‘optimistic’ view, universities are therefore no longer under threat, but will instead turn out to be more central and maybe also more powerful (Martin & Etzkowitz, 2000). Both threats and opportunities are given rise to the ‘declinist’ and ‘optimistic’ hypotheses. If we first consider the threats, one of the major concerns here are the escalating stress on universities to meet the needs and, according to the two writers, in many cases also, more particularly, the needs of the industry (Martin & Etzkowitz, 2000). This has been described by Michael Gibbons, as well as Camille Limoges, Helga Nowotny, Simon Schwartzman, Peter Scott and Martin Trow, in terms of a fundamental shift in the knowledge production system from ‘Mode 1’ to ‘Mode 2’ (Gibbons, 1994). A shift that will be elaborated much more later in this section. Secondly, there is also the threat evolving from the various processes following globalization. This includes the development of new IT as well as communication technologies, but also the changing demands from students. This happens as we, as described above, are moving from an elite to a
mass higher education, in which students are expecting learning over their lifetimes and not just for the three years or so prior to the start of their careers (Martin & Etzkowitz, 2000, p. 3). The two writers describe a last threat, when postulating that the relationship between research and teaching are not as strong any more. As a result of the second threat, the pressure on academics grow as not only more students are to be taught, but also to be taught more efficiently. Furthermore, they are, according to Martin & Etzkowitz (2000), also to provide students with specific skills required by the economy and society. All of this may have consequences for research. On the other hand, if the academics focus too much on their research, as a consequence of possible national priorities, this will conversely give much less emphasis on the teaching of students. Not all of this is looked at as a threat and following the description by Martin & Etzkowitz three opportunistic views are described. More or less, it is a matter of looking positively at the above threats. First up is the rising importance of research as the source of new knowledge for the knowledge economy. Given that we are in a time of globalization, economic competitiveness depends increasingly on innovation (Martin & Etzkowitz, 2000, p. 4). As universities are the primary source of new scientific knowledge, which is needed for innovation, they consequently have an opportunity to gain a more central role in the resulting economic development and competitiveness. Closely linked to this is the growing demand from different organizations, but also individuals for continuous learning and gaining of new skills. All in all, this becomes a question of a growing demand for further expansion of higher education and for lifelong learning (Martin & Etzkowitz, 2000, p. 4). Lastly, globalization has not only brought threats to our society. The new information and communication technologies could, and maybe also is, revolutionizing the way in which learning and teaching are taking place. On top of this, these technologies will, according to Etzkowitz and Martin (2000), also have the possibility of transforming the way research is taking place. In the following, I will describe the modes of knowledge production systems by using statements from different authors. This section will mostly use the issues mentioned by Michael Gibbons, but also the statements from Jan Faye and David Budtz Pedersen in Hvordan styres videnssamfundet? - demokrati, ledelse og organisering will be used. Statements from the president of the European
Research Council, Helga Nowotny, sociologist Steve Fuller and Juha Tuunainen, from the Department of Education in Helsinki, will likewise provide fertile ground for the section to come.
Modes of Knowledge Production Systems
Going back to the shift from ’Mode 1’ to ‘Mode 2’, and more specific the thoughts presented by Gibbons, this shift needs to be elaborated on. The consequences for science and the surviving scientific standards have been manifold, and more science theorists and social scientists have argued that today we are witnessing a new science concept and scientific norm. They call the transition from the individual-oriented basic research to the interdisciplinary and applied research for the above-mentioned transition from Mode 1 to Mode 2 (Gibbons, 1994). Mode 1 involves new knowledge being formed mostly within individual disciplines, this being in universities and other academic institutes. As such, there is not much direct connection to societal needs, but the results of the research are instead transferred at the end of the project to recipients, who might or might not carry on with the results. On top of this, there is a rather small societal accountability required from researchers. Conversely, there is a reasonable amount of autonomy for those working in research in universities and higher education institutions as such, since they can choose their own problems which they want to work on (Martin & Etzkowitz, 2000, p. 5). On the contrary, Mode 2 is involving an aspect of multi-disciplinary, or sometimes transdisciplinary, research that takes place in not just the university, but involves different institutions. The traditional view of university and industry hereby becomes very unclear. As stated by Gibbons:
“…we are now seeing fundamental changes in the ways in which scientific, social and cultural knowledge is produced. ... [T]his trend marks a distinct shift towards a new mode of knowledge production which is replacing or reforming established institutions, disciplines, practices and policies.” (Gibbons, 1994, p. 184)
In a more general policy term, the distinction between Mode 1 and Mode 2 is the difference between inquiry governed strictly by academic interests and by more socially relevant interest. In practice, however, the scale of Mode 1 is much narrower than the university and actual closer to a
discipline or research programme. Conversely, Mode 2 is much more about relevance and even closer to a market attractor. Universities can be said to be reduced from an institution with the goal of identifying knowledge to a suitable space that enables the communication of different knowledge interests. All in all, Mode 2 covers up some capitalist forms of dominance, with a pluralist rhetoric that separates power and responsibility (Fuller, 2006). Gibbons’ book, The New Production of Knowledge, which is putting forward the very influential notion that science is now characterized by Mode 2, is today a standard reference among political organizers. In contrast to the linear relation between basic and applied research, Gibbons sees the modern system of research as characterized by a trans-disciplinary, application-oriented and interdisciplinary scientific culture that becomes relevant in a number of new areas of research, major research projects and the many hybrids between fundamental research, industrial research and policy advice (Faye & Pedersen, 2012, p. 21). An issue that has much to do with it, in a squared mindset, is the issue of not having to wait several years before a certain scientific insight can be transmitted to the society and be taken into use, as the linear model otherwise prescribed. According to Helga Nowotny (2001), the theory of Mode 2 is showing, at least in a European research policy context, that reliable and well-founded knowledge is no longer regarded as the main objective in science. Instead, these terms, in the present knowledge system, has become integrated in an equal respect to the social, political and economic relevance of science. One of the key concepts used by the authors to account for the shift from Mode 1 to Mode 2 is ‘contextualization of knowledge’, which ascribes to the interpenetration of scientific knowledge and its social contexts. As can be read above, the relationship between science and society has become reflexive, meaning not only that science speaks to society, but society now speaks back to science (Tuunainen, 2002, p. 38). Unlike Mode 1, wherein the individual researcher's skill and ingenuity was driven by what he or she saw as an interesting theoretical problem, the focus shifts from the application-oriented research on knowledge of ‘why’ to the knowledge of ‘how’ (Faye & Pedersen, 2012, p. 20). On top of that, it is about the theory not being regarded as a representation of reality, but rather as a tool to manage and intervene with in reality.
The traditional assumption that science can claim autonomy and should only be guided by the researchers' curiosity and the internal logic of disciplines is, according to the above statements, embroiled in a crisis of legitimacy. With the central role, that knowledge and knowledge policy has received in society, research is now being applied more to the markets, as well as many stakeholders now have a strong interest in science. This helps to create a greater pressure on the scientific institutions as they are subjected to diverse forms of monitoring, evaluation and management (Faye & Pedersen, 2012, p. 22). Discussing the issues of the knowledge society, Faye & Pedersen continue to question the view of the above dilemma. According to them, we will, by letting market forces and policy strategies be the prerequisite for all priorities of the research system, allow that the possibility to distinguish between the good and reliable research and the politically profiled research, but yet scientifically less profiled research will disappear. More explicitly, they state that:
â€œHow to achieve a given objective - for example, effective knowledge institutions cannot be isolated from the understanding of what knowledge is or how knowledge is created. Knowledge is not any institutional activity that may be exposed to commodification or subject to performance goals and requirements of efficiency without affecting the scientific process. Such a finding may seem trivial, but it has farreaching implications for society's ability to stimulate and develop effective scientific institutions.â€? (author's own translation, Faye & Pedersen, 2012, p. 23)
I highly agree with the above statement by Faye & Pedersen. There is no question that knowledge, when exposed to a consumer aspect and massive measuring of activities and performance, to say a few, will have an effect on the knowledge production process. Additionally, it is also difficult to assess the economic value of knowledge as it can take many diverse forms and not all of them are equally productive. As stated by the OECD, knowledge is extremely heterogeneous in nature and its value is not intrinsic, but depends on its relationship to the user. For this reason it cannot be quantified in the same terms as physical objects such as land or industrial capital (OECD, 1999).
Various other terms have been proposed in an attempt to characterize the current state of knowledge policy; one of them is the Triple Helix model, as proposed by Etzkowitz (2000). In addition, along with other things, Post-Academic Science as described by John Michael Ziman
(1996) and Social Robust Knowledge put forward by Helga Nowotny et al. (2001) can be mentioned – all terms that have some common features. These are said to include an increased use of research management and strategic direction of the scientific institutions, closer relations between government, industry and research, as well as internationalization and harmonization of research and education. Furthermore, the similarities also include formalized student rights, an increased use of evaluations and not least a significant increase in market attachment and commercialization of research (Faye & Pedersen, 2012). The OECD has described this period of change, that have been said to have started in the 1980’s, as the ‘knowledge-based economy’ (OECD, 1996). All in all, this is about innovation policy becoming an autonomous policy area that has received a much more substantial impact than policies for classical research and knowledge. When talking about innovation, this is also linked to a need of special kind of skills – generic skills. Generic skills are pushed forward since they serve the purpose of innovation – skills which are precisely important for employability. By pushing the need for innovation forward, the impetus for employability is likewise pushed forward. So when talking about innovation in this section, it is with a strong emphasis on employability and the skills relating to this. As seen from the above, this is a view that is very focussed on labour market orientation. Continuing the discussion of the role of universities, as well as the changing nature of knowledge production, this now gives reasons for an explanation of the before mentioned Triple Helix model. Given the limitations of this thesis, I will not go into depth with the other two, Post-Academic Science and Social Robust Knowledge, as it is rather a question of name, rather than substance, but both can be consulted in “Postacademic Science”: Constructing Knowledge with Networks and Norms (1996) and Re-thinking science: knowledge and the public in an age of uncertainty (2001), respectively. To keep the coherence of the former section, the coming section will refer to many of the same writers. Several other writers will moreover be used, but will be presented in relation to the specific sub-sections.
The Triple Helix Model
While the Mode 2 underlined the de-institualization of the current mode of knowledge production, the Triple Helix model likewise describes this, but goes more into depth, when describing the issue that universities are taking up a new mission of contributing to the economic
development (Tuunainen, 2002). Here, universities are, on top of the mission of teaching and research, seen to be taking on a new third mission in the shape of more directly contributing to the economy. This is coined â€˜entrepreneurial universitiesâ€™ and closely associated with interlinking of institutional spheres of the university, industry and government (Martin & Etzkowitz, 2000). Along with this, a new social contract was, according to Etzkowitz and Martin, brought along. This can be seen in relation to the earlier described linear model, which the two writers metaphorically describe in relation to the government throwing money over a wall and not knowing if the result of the research, if any, would be useful for social or economic beliefs (Martin & Etzkowitz, 2000, p. 7). When the new social contract changed, a clear expectation of return in public funds was, nevertheless, expected as scientists and universities from now on were to address the needs of users in the economy and society. Moreover, they were, and still are, subject to much more explicit accountability for the funding they receive. The Triple Helix relationships and its relation to the discourse surrounding us will be elaborated on, taking point of departure in the statements of Etzkowitz, but also newly described ideas by Livingstone.
4.2.1. Triple Helix Relationships
The Triple Helix model is grounded in the idea of a post-industrial society, where production is no longer the driving force. In the post-industrial society knowledge is the commodity that creates growth, which also means that the creation of new knowledge and use of knowledge in new contexts are key attributes in order to compete. In short, post-industrial, but also knowledge economy, theories generally presuppose or emphasize that workers increasingly require more skills, become more involved in planning their own work, and increasingly constitute a professional class (Livingstone, 2012, pp. 87-88). By working to unite researchers' efforts in the generation of knowledge, the Triple Helix model breaks with what has been called a gap between industry and academia that had come down in the industrial society. The knowledge and efforts that industry and university researchers hold are united in the Triple Helix model to produce the best opportunities for the creation of new knowledge by combining knowledge from both worlds. As seen, the model brings together the
two dominating ways of looking at innovation. It is similarly with a strong emphasis on employability, when describing innovation in this section. The Triple Helix model is building on the perception that the interweaving of university, industry and public sector will result in a transfer of new knowledge and new innovations. In addition, the Triple Helix model is a rather complex model that is based on hybrid organizations, which in a continuous progress of relations, processes and communication between the three ground elements, will develop itself into new platforms for a following organization of hybrids. It is therefore no longer a question of bi-lateral relations between government and academia, government and industry and/or academia and industry. Instead, it has expanded into a triadic relationship among the spheres, especially at the regional level. With the common purpose of the stimulation of knowledge-based economic development, academic-industry-government relations are emerging from different institutional starting points in various parts of the world (Henry Etzkowitz, 2002). As pointed out in an earlier section, there will in this thesis be refered to either the public sector, government or the state, since both refer to the same stakeholder in this model, and therefore is an aspect of how the authors refer to them and therefore have validity in the references. This is also the situation with universities that may be referred to as academia, and industry that may be referred to as enterprise or business. A range of different developments in the universities, the industry and the public sector have made a platform for the progress of the Triple Helix model. In the following, I wish to look at the development of the Triple Helix model. Furthermore, this review will also show what the demands are to, and from, the three stakeholders and how these relate to quality, but also the issue of relevance, in higher education. On top of already described writers, this sub-section will introduce sociologist Loet Leydesdorff, who together with Henry Etzkowitz describe different models.
4.2.2. Models of Relationships
The traditional mind on business has now been changed with the knowledge society and following focus on innovation. This has brought in the need for new skills and functions. In relation to this, higher education institutions are more than ever now looked upon as corporate entities. Universities are also today referred to as groups, to which they have human resource departments and management development programs, operated by private accountants that might benchmark
them with companies in the stock market (Faye & Pedersen, 2012, p. 296). The application of business principles to the management of higher education institutions is similarly becoming increasingly familiar as pressure from policy-makers to ‘deliver their product’ accelerates (Birds, 2010). Additionally, industries begin to act as education institutions themselves, since education is now possible in a specific enterprise. All of this is interfered by the government that along this, to some extent, can be said to acts as an enterprise and side with industry. Everybody is changing roles and patterns. Those behind the ideas of the Triple Helix model, Etzkowitz and co-author, Leydesdorff, have described three models (see figure 4) that show the relationship between the industry, the academia, and the state. Model 1 represents a situation where the state has taken the initiative to keep the needs-driven innovation away from the enterprises and the customers, by deciding which products or commodities there should be produced and which development needs to be realized. Model 1 has gradually been looked at as an unsuccessful model of development, with too little room for ‘bottom up’ initiatives (Henry Etzkowitz & Leydesdorff, 2000, p. 112). The model, that could be found in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe (Tuunainen, 2002), is preventing the desire to innovate rather than encouraging it. The construction of Model 2 is shown as a separation of the industry, academia and the state with great boundaries between the institutional spheres. The cooperation between the three spheres is primarily limited to market based transactions. This model can also be considered as a laissez-faire approach, since it is up to the institutions themselves to be organized in cooperation. Model 3 displays a structure associated with the link of industry, the state and academia so closely together that they overlap each other. Here, a knowledge infrastructure is generated, where each assumes each others’ roles and hybrid organizations can arise in the common interfaces (Henry Etzkowitz & Leydesdorff, 2000). This Model 3 is also what is referred to as the Triple Helix model in this thesis. All in all, the development towards a system of relationships between academia, industry and the state are dynamic elements that are the foundation for the Triple Helix model.
Figure 4. Relationships (Henry Etzkowitz & Leydesdorff, 2000, p. 111). The Triple Helix model is contingent to handle recursive interactions between three individual spheres, each of which evolves dynamically. The model is thus an analysis of the bonds between the three autonomous elements in a structure of reflective control (Henry Etzkowitz & Leydesdorff, 1996). However, the elements are closely linked, and the relationships between them can be developed through various forms of interactions, making the system evolve as a whole. The interaction between the elements gives the model a learning dimension. Without interactions each element will, according to the father and co-author of the model, evolve endogenously and the development will risk ending up in a state of deadlock as a result of a wrong choice. An issue that is not the case for the Triple Helix model, as it does not experience a steady state, since a constant competition between the three dynamic helices add increased complexity and flexibility (Henry Etzkowitz & Leydesdorff, 1996). The systems are in constant development, and the risk of getting caught in suboptimal situation is therefore to a lower extent existing. In addition to relationships in the Triple Helix model, there are some dynamics that influence the development of the model. More specifically, this includes the issue of funding, control and compensation. Each of these three elements affects the system structure and balance. The Triple Helix model cannot implement innovation projects without an embodiment of financing, control and compensation systems. For each of the three elements, a decision must be made on what the weighting should be between financial resources and autonomy by those taking part in the interaction. In addition, participants must agree on the overall financing of the distribution of autonomy for the interaction function. Even with an equitable distribution of the costs of a project there might be disagreements about control (Henry Etzkowitz & Leydesdorff, 1996). This also
relates to the purpose of such projects and therefore links well with quality definitions, as well as the issue of relevance. When each of the three sides wishes to use their influence, it creates a delicate balance. The public sector is typically not as interested in the individual project, but more in the results that come out of the system as a whole. Researchers from the university have more concrete demands to the proceedings of the project and would thus wish more control than the public sector. For enterprises the yield is even more specific, since it in some cases may involve actual, physical or not, prototypes. It follows, that the project may be the last and most important part of the innovation of a new project, which makes great demands for control of the process. The enterprises are therefore more likely to require more control over a project and perhaps even more than their share of financing deserves. As can be seen, when here determining the goals of a project, but again must be related to higher education, the effects of autonomy and funding are to some extent favouring vocationalisation, but also, to a high extent, employability â€“ hence the requirements from the industry. The next sub-section now illustrates how the abovementioned can be seen in the issue of modes in the Triple Helix model. On top of earlier references, the following will also include critical views from Professor Peter Weingart.
4.2.3. Modes and the Triple Helix Model
According to Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff, the Triple Helix model overlay offers a model at the level of social structure for the explanation of Mode 2 as a historically emerging structure for the production of scientific knowledge, and its relation to Mode 1 (Henry Etzkowitz & Leydesdorff, 2000). The two writers give, among others, two reasons for this thought. One is the fact, according to them, that the attachments between industry and government no longer need to be conceptualized as exclusively between national governments and specific industrial sectors. Secondly, there is the issue of profit. This has become a driving force for the interaction between the stakeholders, as profit, as a term, also can have different meanings, depending on who is looking at it (Henry Etzkowitz & Leydesdorff, 2000). Lastly, but not least, the two writers underline this, when stating that:
“The new mode of knowledge production generates an endless transition that continuously redefine the borders of the endless frontier.” (Henry Etzkowitz & Leydesdorff, 2000, p. 119)
As a reason for coming up with the Triple Helix model, the father and co-author of this are critical towards the Mode 2 type of research and state that it is not new at all, but has, in fact, always existed. One of many examples of this is the success of science in supplying practical results during World War II (Henry Etzkowitz & Leydesdorff, 2000). Furthermore, they postulate that the Mode 2 hypothesis exaggerates the change science is undergoing, while all together dismissing relevant earlier literature and empirical evidence. In relation to this, the Triple Helix model started out because a need to develop more innovation was seen. The founder of the concept therefore thought of bringing the three stakeholders together to create innovation. The idea as such was really good, but the purpose may be shattered a bit, since the model according to other theorists can be questioned. Naming it ‘old wine in new bottles’, as the sub-title of his paper suggests, Peter Weingart starts out by likewise being rather critical towards the Mode 2. According to him, the lack of adequate empirical evidence, concerning the fundamental change of knowledge production, makes the Mode 2 hypothesis look like “a normative program rather than an empirical analysis” (Weingart, 1997, p. 608). Conversely of Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff, Weingart does not use this to justify for the Triple Helix model, as the latter is likewise criticized by him. Along this, it has also been noted that the discourses related to both Mode 2 hypothesis, but also the Triple Helix model, look like they were directly associated with the language of science and technology policy and neo-liberal political agenda. He continues his critique of the above and relates it to the aspects of a knowledge society:
“The ‘knowledge society’ is obviously not characterized by the dominance of traditional organizations of academic science over other organizations, but by the centrality of systematic knowledge in reaching decisions, political, economic, legal, etc.” (Weingart, 1997, p. 610)
Additionally, Ove Kaj Pedersen (2011) claims that among the unique interpretations of science policy, we see a neo-liberal hegemony consisting of market thinking, competition, production
orientation and tighter political and managerial control of research. Criticism of the above can thus easily be found in academia.
Summary of Mode 2 and the Triple Helix Model
The Triple Helix model seems as a model with pros and cons. However, and especially in relation to the last view, it appears to have a little taste of imbalance of power to the benefit of the industry. Moderately, it seems as if governments and higher education institutions have eventually not being questioning it. This might be due to the situation of the current financial crisis, where governments and higher education institutions have ended up agreeing with the industry, since the voice of money talks louder; money that the industry has. When a stakeholder has more money, they can easily demand more focus on their causes. If doing this, it becomes a question of what the labour market wants from higher education institutions, and especially what kind of skills they require from the graduates. It is a shift from meritocratic rules to market rules of selection (Brown et al., 2003, p. 25). Furthermore, this can be related to the issues surrounding the suggested change of mode in the knowledge production systems. The position that knowledge has an intrinsic value has been abandoned, because the markets have been let to define the skills that are required. Competencies have been more in focus than knowledge. This can also be connected to the issues earlier mentioned by Bridgstock, that many of the definitions focus on short-term applied research, and is precisely why these kinds of definitions are being adopted, and maybe also pushed forward, by employer organizations. The imbalance in the Triple Helix model may therefore turn employability into the main goal of higher education. This can, however, end up being executed in bi-lateral relations. Here, there is a risk of, with the emergence of a joint development between two helices, that it can shut off the alternative development directions. If that happens, the system will then end in suboptimal equilibrium, where it will be locked to the unbalanced new innovation.
The Triple Helix model expresses not only the relationship between university, industry and government, but also the domestic transformation within each of these spheres. Taking the university as an example, this has been transformed from a teaching institution into one which combines first and second mission, research and teaching. To some extent, there is an
apprehension between the two missions, but they still exist in a relatively compatible relationship with one another, since this, apparently, has found to be the most productive and effective way. Along this, it has, from above, subsequently given rise to the issue that universities are taking up a new mission of contributing to the economic development. Etzkowitz and Martin indeed describe, but promptly downplay it as they state that there is little rigorous systematic evidence for or against the issue, that:
“...this third function may damage both teaching - through an over-emphasis on short-term specific skill needs as opposed to a broader education – and also research – because of an over-emphasis on short-term applied research to the detriment of long-term basic research.” (Martin & Etzkowitz, 2000)
I do not agree with Martin & Etzkowitz, as I lean towards the mindset described by Faye & Pedersen, that teaching and research will be affected due to an over-emphasis on the third mission. The above quotation therefore has validity and should not be downplayed. However, it is said that both the Triple Helix model and the Mode 2 hypothesis must, as their names suggest, be seen as respectively a model and a hypothesis. Having that in mind, both the model and the hypothesis are good attempts to clench with many recent phenomena concerning university research, its societal application and the broader institutional framework within which universities are operating as we speak (Tuunainen, 2002). Nevertheless, the above statements subsequently have brought another view of this term. The question is then whether this is the actual model for higher education institutions to be part of? Given all of the above, it must be admitted, that this can easily be related to the first line in this section, stating that we are witnessing a transnational policy process aimed at the instrumental control of the university and the elimination of academic autonomy (Moutsios, 2012). As can be seen, the Triple Helix model is very controlled by the industry and based on the above there may be a need for a more holistic model.
5. Conclusions and Reflections In the time and with discourses surrounding us, higher education institutions are very focused on being an investment in a business aspect rather than a nation aspect. Higher education institutions should be about knowledge - to aim for knowledge and produce knowledge. Value of education and research should not only be valued when seen on the bottom line of the gross domestic product. The technocratic planning and management of education and research are tightened progressively, and education and research are now seen primarily as a means to mobilize the country's economic competitiveness, while the democratic and educative goals, as well as aspects of identifying knowledge, have to a larger extent disappeared. This paradigm shift means that education and research, with the large focus on employability, are diverted to serve the economic needs. Qualities in education and research are now measured primarily in terms of its value to the business, while its human and democratic qualities in relation to the personal formation, active citizenship and critical thinking are taken for granted and not a main concern. It appears that democracy and influence are infringed, since they are inappropriate in a market view. Students and researchers do not necessarily want what is best for business competitiveness in the short term, but on the contrary prioritise from what makes sense to deal with in academic and general human terms. As it is now, it seems as if the higher education institutions' primary responsibility is to deliver graduates and research to the labour market. This makes it very onedimensional and again becomes a matter of economic value. The third mission of higher education institutions thus becomes the single most important mission. On the other hand, it would be desirable for higher education institutions to play a role on where we as a society want to go. One senses no understanding that a sustainable society not only needs an efficient market and state, but also a rich civil society. Long lasting reforms are not just about ensuring the economy, but also to maintain and develop democracy. Society and its citizens need learning both as people in the personal and civic sphere, as citizens in the public sphere and as employees at work. Accordingly, it is a question of long-term nation visions and not just short-term business visions. A large part of the board at the universities come from the industry, and as a result of this, firms are allowed to dictate what to research and how programs must be tailored to be directly profitable for businesses. As a consequence, there is a declining focus on the needs of society. One can say that there is a need for a new agreement between higher education institutions and society, where the latter must decide the amount of funds to higher education institutions. By 84
contrast, the professional environments in higher education institutions must themselves define how education and research should be designed, so that they are most beneficial to the individual student and civil society. Such kind of democratization cannot guarantee that universities not only focuses on the third mission, but is conversely ensuring that business interests are not sitting head of the table and dictate the quality and relevance of universities and higher education institutions as such. Higher education institutions should be open to the community and should not be dominated by the labour marketâ€™s profit considerations. In recent decades, there has been a gradual paradigm shift in the educational agenda from a humanistic discourse with a focus on democracy and personal formation to an instrumental discourse focusing on the economy and employability in the form of persuasion of the individual to investment in human capital. The rationale behind this paradigm shift is the market dominated globalization that has increased the pressure on individual countries to transform all aspects of society to the new competitive world market. With the discourse of neo-liberalism, it has made its mark in the form of a capitalist market logic that dominates in all spheres of society. In recent years, the content of education has been established in every detail to ensure that students are not trained in fields that are not considered to be useful or have relevance for the market. Moreover, it is a matter of preparing for a situation where education is no longer a right, but a commodity that can be bought by the students who may be able to afford it - either in terms of money or time. The focus on employability throughout higher education can also be seen in the research reviewed in this thesis. Very specifically, some of the research shows that incentives behind the choice of education were primarily done on the basis of personal interest. However, personal interest becomes a smaller incentive, as the focus on job opportunity grows (Aarhus University, 2003) â€“ obvious signs that the specific focus on employability in higher education institutions has an impact. This can be related to two welcoming speeches from the University of Copenhagen mentioned earlier in this thesis. The first rector welcomed to a community in which to think critically and have a moral obligation to engage in the development of the world which students are a part of. Conversely, the other rector welcomed the students as participants in the global race, where students should first and foremost think of their own success, and not create morally rooted ties
to the university and the larger society (Cain & Nielsen, 2010). More specifically, the latter speech was a matter of seeing education as a private investment, and to maximize oneâ€™s own employability. Today, higher education institutions are delivering a service, since students merely need to learn a specific curriculum. Instead, the focus should rather be on learning to learn. What you learn in higher education institutions today is not necessarily what is needed in ten years and relevance is difficult to predict, which DM's comment about a possible closure of Chinese studies in Denmark reflects. The problem with the policies, which the politicians are putting forward, is that it is not very business friendly to be business friendly. If you set up an education on the basis of what businesses today are fantasizing a need of in about ten to fifteen years, you will hit the crossbar. As a result, we see that politicians are designing policies that do not match the time we live in. There is absolutely nothing wrong in educating students for the labour market. However, there is a need to question whether society needs education, but also research, as defined by narrow commercial interests or higher education institutions instead need to be more independent of the market. That is not to neglect that education must have relevance for society. On the contrary, there is a need for highly educated people with a critical approach to society, in which they are going to succeed in, and as a result universities ought to challenge traditional truths. Higher education is much more than just a matter of function, as also mentioned by student representatives in both Asia and Europe (ASEF, 2012). Aspects of developing a stronger human being to have a stronger foundation that one in interaction with practice builds on are also part of higher education. Reflections can here be made to the earlier proclaims from science journalist Lone Frank, stating that the students today need to finish higher education as an â€˜intellectual Swiss knifeâ€™ (Danmarks Radio, 2013). Everything must not simply be legitimized on the basis of economy. However, this thesis has shown that the latter has become vastly pervasive in higher education. The role of universities is to provide the best possible skilled workers who know the international academic discussion. As it is now, students do take responsibility for their learning - but motivation alone does not generate employment, as demand matters more than what has been acknowledged at the moment (Holm & Clemans, 2013). This can be reflected on the case that the students do a kind of double qualification. They give more emphasis to a strategy for how to qualify for business purposes rather than educational purposes (Mehlsen, Hutters, & Svarer,
2012). At the moment, issues concerning the demand of knowledge workers and the way organizations make the most of the capabilities of the graduates are largely ignored. Seeing that industry today wants students who have double-invested in both higher education, but also the specific requirements needed for the job, it can be regarded as a form of laziness by the industry. Thus, there must be a focus on the demand-side of the employability discourse, as this thesis also has pointed out. When the graduates enter the labour market, it is here that the industry has a responsibility to educate them to acquire the required competencies for the specific job. This offers the students the possibility to give more emphasis on the educational purposes when attending higher education. All in all, there is a need to recognize that employability depends on both individual capabilities and an assortment of factors that are external to the individual, as also mentioned by Brown et al. (2003; 2012).
The core problem with the major focus on employability in higher education institutions is the misunderstanding of quality and relevance - especially in Denmark. Firstly, we have a centrally planned economy, where we constantly learn from quantitative measurements which, as such, do not say anything about quality. Secondly, a question of quantitative versus qualitative has evolved as a matter of the mass universities. In a Danish university aspect, this is very based on the local norms and standards, which are far from international norms and standards. Between the lines, this is more specifically an aspect of the new public management that has taken over the universities and completely changed them. It is important to keep in mind that there can be differences in the above in the different faculties. In the context of that, the Danish educational researcher Henrik Dahl posits that there within human science has been a clear distinction from the past. It has become easier to study these subjects, as one has to perform less during the exams. You have to write less, you have to read less and the complexity of what you have to read also becomes smaller. Consequently, the syllabus will be much narrower, shallower and largely comes from textbooks instead of immersing oneself in the subject material. The papers that are handed in thus become very monotonous and students are very authoritarian against the professors (Danmarks Radio, 2013). Elaborating more on the specific aspect of Denmark, the German professor Linda Maria Koldau states that there is something wrong with the entire system in all its aspects. This involves
teaching, pedagogy, how there are clear changes in the curriculum and how the students have turned into pupils. The latter refers to the students being firmly bolted and not getting the opportunity to independently find their literature or research, but rather have it handed on a plate. With a reference to the new Accreditation Law, we see that all the higher education institutions in Denmark are academically bolted and fixed in laws. This can make teaching tedious and have the students lose their motivation. The students' attitude towards education can thus be regarded as a symptom of the above (Danmarks Radio, 2013). By tuning the students into very specific curriculums, and require that they acquire competencies for a very specific job, the students will not develop as much critical thinking as earlier. The many reforms which universities and higher education as such have undergone, have created a reality that in many ways discourage rather than promote the development of some of the qualities of students that would otherwise normally be identified as a future solution (HolmPedersen & Nielsen, 2012). More specifically, this includes the inability for the students to become independent, innovative and risk-taking and they do not learn to be critical when meeting changing contexts, as the road has already been mapped. For this reason, the focus should rather be on how to redefine quality and relevance of the universities and higher education institutions per se so it does not have the significant market oriented focus.
As can be seen throughout this thesis, employability has become the new buzzword. The focus is consequently on organizing the education for the future labour market needs, understood as enhancing the studentsâ€™ employability. This has been evident in the review of several aspects of this thesis; including the new Accreditation Law in Denmark where quality and relevance most certainly were in focus. In general, it is a very narrow focus on employability around the competencies and skills that have a clear purpose in the labour market. To use the words of Nussbaum (2010), we are leaning towards a model that focuses more on the labour market rather than individual development. This can also be related to the different definitions of employability mentioned in this thesis. These definitions emphasize skills and competencies that might make an individual attractive to potential employers. Due to its focus on short-term employment outcomes these kinds of definitions are being adopted by employer organizations. As a consequence, this focus
overshadows academic immersion and instead gives a large labour market focus in all aspects of higher education institutions. Gritt B. Nielsen (2012) has described this as a distinction between ‘inquisitive’ and ‘acquisitive’ learning. The former denotes the curious and exploratory learning, which is driven by interest in knowledge for knowledge's sake. However, acquisitive learning is driven by a more instrumental and consumption logical approach to knowledge. Nielsen continues, when explaining that the acquisitive learning basically is about passing one’s exams and getting a diploma - which then can be traded in the job market. But if you focus exclusively on the diploma and on what the education can be used for in a narrow sense, then the incentives to independently and critically engage with the knowledge you are presented with disappear. Following this, there is a contrast between higher education as a goal in itself and higher education as an investment in one’s future (HolmPedersen & Nielsen, 2012). Classical formation and in-depth study are supplanted by demands for specific job skills. The narrow focus compromises with the subject content of higher education and the student's ability to formulate and solve complex problems. All educational elements are designed as building blocks in the student's path towards a particular vocational profile on competencies. The notion that knowledge and insight are legitimate in themselves has vanished. Throughout the earlier sections it can be seen that we furthermore have gone from educating a small elite to great vintages and the universities have consequently changed. It may well be that this has not changed society so much, but you cannot ignore that the role of universities, after all, has changed drastically. With this change of role, it is now to a greater extent the society that makes us critical and not the universities. Accordingly, it is not the students' burden when they do not spend time at university to immerse themselves in the academic world. They just do as they are told. The clear objective of education is now a labour market focus on employability and the aforementioned school attachment can be seen in the current purpose of higher education. The yield of higher education was previously formulated as knowledge, insight and critical thinking, but in the light of new policies, the new curricula are now based on specific job opportunities. Being proactive and independently seeking knowledge is downgraded in favour of some relatively specific application goals. Students are only recognized for being interested in what is in the curriculum, the syllabus and examination questions, as previously described in this thesis, but also
specified by Sarauw in her PhD on the development of human sciences in Danish universities (2011). Although students may wish to immerse themselves in the academic situation at the universities, there is a clear hindrance to this, which can also be seen in the hegemonic focus on quality and relevance in the new Accreditation Law. There is a need to appreciate that academic freedom traditionally includes some values about education and autonomy, which might be needed to get back on the track (Holm-Pedersen & Nielsen, 2012). As it is now, the businessoriented focus on employability in higher education institutions is too narrow.
When looking at research in higher education institutions, this thesis has shown that the focus of employability has similarly had consequences in this area. Postulated by Fuller (2006), universities are today reduced from an institution of identifying knowledge to a suitable space that enables the communication of different knowledge interests. Equally, it is a matter of capitalist form of dominance with a pluralistic rhetoric that separates power and responsibility. As a result, Nowotny has stated that reliable and well-founded knowledge is no longer regarded as the main objective in science, but are instead integrated into equal aspects of social, political and economic relevance of research (Nowotny et al., 2001). With a reference to Weingart and Faye and Pedersen, this thesis has additionally showed that the knowledge society nowadays are characterized by the centrality of systematic knowledge in reaching political, economic and legal decisions, and as such will be influenced by this (Faye & Pedersen, 2012; Weingart, 1997). From the findings in this thesis, it can be damaging for universities to solely focus on the third mission of being an entrepreneurial university.
Rather than merely having a specific point of view on employability as the main purpose of higher education there is a need to include all stakeholders. When doing this, it will furthermore give another insight to the aspect of quality and relevance of higher education institutions. Consequently, this thesis has suggested a view of quality that gives reason to include all stakeholders. Using the ideas described by Harvey and Green (1993) and Vroeijenstijn (2012), the alternative was summed up as transformative fitness of purpose â€“ meeting expectations of all stakeholders with a focus on empowerment and the democratisation of the process. This is not only to be focussed on the individual student in a teaching and learning aspect, but should
additionally be broadened to all aspects of higher education institutions, including research. As demonstrated in this thesis, there has been a tendency to look at education and research separately, but I am of the belief that these two cannot be disassembled if a comprehensive overview of higher education institutions is wanted. Through this different view of quality in higher education institutions they are sought combined, and also giving another approach to the purpose of higher education. With this focus on quality, there is also an opportunity to develop a new model around employability in higher education institutions that do not have a predominant labour market orientation. This thesis has described two different models around employability, each of which included different stakeholders and thus different views of employability. However, I have in this thesis postulated that there is a need for a new model to engage in the issues of employability that can solve both societal needs and individual expectations, but also have a long-term nation vision for the purpose of higher education. By incorporating the above two models, I believe that there is a possibility to have a purpose of higher education that integrates a view of employability, which is able to comply with a transformative fitness for purpose in higher education institutions. With the use of the capital and capabilities approach, the first model described how aspects of both societal needs and individual expectations could be solved. Stating this, it is also necessary to include all of the different stakeholders. Although this thesis has showed how influential the industry is, and how they have succeeded in pushing forward a labour market orientated employability focus in higher education institutions, the industry should not be neglected. Since they are ‘recipients’ of the graduates, it goes without saying, that they must have a stakeholder role, but it must be questioned in what way their voice should be used. The current economic view from the industry should instead pay suitable respect to the demand-side of employability, as well as the stakeholder role of the state and the universities must be more equal. For this reason, aspects and stakeholders from the Triple Helix model should also be included. Both models will give reason for a new understanding of employability in higher education institutions. As stated earlier in this thesis, the meaning of employability seems to change depending on which stakeholder is using it. When the industry says employability they mean ‘usefulness’, and the following employability skills are the abilities that make someone quickly productive in their work tasks and decrease the necessity of spending money on training and development. When
universities say it, they mean ‘offloadability’, and employability skills are behaviours likely to reduce a student's chances of showing up in unemployment statistics. Looking at students and civil society at large, their definition of employability as also containing sustainability, appropriateness and autonomy are lacking in today’s society. Instead, the employer and institutional interpretations are currently dominant in discussions of employability and leading to onedimensional implementations of employability policies used by the state. Read in connection with the descriptions of the two models described in this thesis, the following figure is doing away with and providing an alternative to this contemporary focus around employability and hereby also grants for another view of the purpose of higher education.
Figure 5. An Alternative to the Contemporary View of Employability. This thesis has shown that there is an economic focus in higher education and the curriculum as such – more specific a focus on human capital. However, as also stated by Schuller et al., education generates, alongside the traditional knowledge and skill-based capabilities, the less
tangible personal and social capabilities and provides a means of achieving the kinds of functioning identified with social and identity capital. For this reason, the above figure is taking point of departure in the need of augmenting this focus to other forms of capital. This is a more comprehensive approach to the curriculum that also addresses the social and personal facets of functioning, which make up the quality of life. All in all, these â€˜capital-cornersâ€™ are the cornerstone of the figure and it is necessary to use all three corners to get the best possible returns. All things considered, and in order to comply with a transformative fitness for purpose in higher education institutions, all stakeholders should be included. Accordingly, the ideas from the Triple Helix model are combined in this new view of employability. Many of the aspects of the Triple Helix model are very important for higher education institutions, especially in regard to the necessity of innovation. In order to have a long-term nation vision we need innovation and the aspects described in the Triple Helix model are therefore not to be neglected. Nevertheless, it is important that this is not the main focus, as it would otherwise risk, as shown in this thesis, leading to a purely economic focus. It is important that the stakeholders within the triangle must not be read in connection to the corners they are pointing to, but have to be seen as a whole in the middle. Having the three capital corners in focus, as well as including the ideas from the Triple Helix model, the capabilities are still to be located around the Triple Helix relations within the triangle and indicate the direct and indirect learning outcomes through which the diverse forms of capital are accumulated. Following this, higher education institutions should be seen as a place to convert capability into functioning, and the policy thinking of higher education ought therefore to be adjusted. More specifically, it is important that the market thinking of human capital needs to be changed and be augmented to other capitals in order to have the full potential. Likewise, it is central to respect the need of all three capitals, as well as stressing the case for a truly inclusive approach to the curriculum that addresses the economic, the social and identity functionings that in the end structures the quality of life - as also described by Schuller et al. Subsequent of this, it is important to accentuate that the approach to quality and relevance must be changed, and should not be the one as depicted in the new Accreditation Law or otherwise identified with the current focus on employability in this thesis.
Using this model in a research aspect, the researchers will, rather than having a simplistic labourmarket orientated view, have a well-documented approach. The view on human capital will emphasize research as further knowledge, skills and qualifications; the view on social capital will emphasize research as needed in different networks and relations, and the view on identity capital will identify where this research is directed. As it is now, the society is adapting to a massive focus on jobs and by doing this there is a risk of getting simplistic teaching and research at universities. When it is kept completely in detail in a process of achieving something specific, you get a demonstration that does not fit the desire for seeking knowledge and new insights. Instead, there must be an objective and an educational endeavour at a higher education institution. From this thesis, it has clearly been shown that employability has had a strong influence in higher education institutions, more specifically in Denmark, in such a way that it has changed the purpose of higher education. All focus, as well as aspects of quality and relevance, are only seen in relation to the labour market. However, if you want a society in which our source of living is knowledge and thinking, then one must accept that there is a need for good research and original thinking and not a focus on the labour market where individual development and well-documented research are taken for granted. The remaining purposes of the Bologna Process - preparation for life as active citizens in a democratic society, personal development and the development and maintenance of a broad, advanced knowledge base â€“ must likewise not be neglected. There is a need for a more imaginative and progressive approach to higher education that requires a set of alternative principles. These principles must adopt more than the market, not to be in opposition to the market, but for the sake of improving the market. Having a focus on the different capitals of a person or research, this new model will give the opportunity for original and independent thinking, but also good and critical research, as well as regain the intrinsic value of knowledge. By first focusing on the capitals the capabilities will become functions. In addition, it will also provide a stronger foundation that either students or researchers in practice build on. With a subsequent developmental focus on innovation, through the three actors in the middle, it will redefine the purpose of higher education to once again include societal needs, individual expectations and allows for a long-term nation vision, rather than a short-term business vision.
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