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When masses meet markets: credentialism and commodification in twenty-first century higher education

When masses meet markets: credentialism and commodification in twenty-first century higher education
When masses meet markets: credentialism and commodification in twenty-first century higher education
The institutional form and conception of Higher Education have changed through the growth of mass higher education, which in many national systems now operates on market logics. Drawing on theories of credentialism, this article provides a critical analysis of the inter-relationship between massification and marketization and examines a range of consequences this has for institutional relations and dynamics. A central feature of credential inflation in mass systems has been the growing competition for scarce status goods and the reproduction of structural inequalities in accessing sought-after occupational outcomes. The policy context of marketization has concurrently reinforced the pressures on institutions to fulfil the promise held by governments, employers and graduates of enhancing human capital and Higher Education institutions’ economic value. Accompanying New Public Management policy levers have further established institutional conditions based on competitive accountability and performative evaluation. We show how these pressures are manifested in new forms of instrumental rationality that valorize the commodification of academic credentials, and relatedly, studentship and academic scholarship. We finally consider the possible ways forward in appraising the goals of HE beyond credential inflation.
Credentialism, commodification, higher education, marketization, massification, values
0159-6306
173-187
Tomlinson, Michael
9dd1cbf0-d3b0-421e-8ded-b3949ebcee18
Watermeyer, Richard
273c2b32-9606-4a79-b736-9bc99442abf8
Tomlinson, Michael
9dd1cbf0-d3b0-421e-8ded-b3949ebcee18
Watermeyer, Richard
273c2b32-9606-4a79-b736-9bc99442abf8

Tomlinson, Michael and Watermeyer, Richard (2022) When masses meet markets: credentialism and commodification in twenty-first century higher education. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 43 (2), 173-187. (doi:10.1080/01596306.2020.1814996).

Record type: Article

Abstract

The institutional form and conception of Higher Education have changed through the growth of mass higher education, which in many national systems now operates on market logics. Drawing on theories of credentialism, this article provides a critical analysis of the inter-relationship between massification and marketization and examines a range of consequences this has for institutional relations and dynamics. A central feature of credential inflation in mass systems has been the growing competition for scarce status goods and the reproduction of structural inequalities in accessing sought-after occupational outcomes. The policy context of marketization has concurrently reinforced the pressures on institutions to fulfil the promise held by governments, employers and graduates of enhancing human capital and Higher Education institutions’ economic value. Accompanying New Public Management policy levers have further established institutional conditions based on competitive accountability and performative evaluation. We show how these pressures are manifested in new forms of instrumental rationality that valorize the commodification of academic credentials, and relatedly, studentship and academic scholarship. We finally consider the possible ways forward in appraising the goals of HE beyond credential inflation.

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21_Tomlinson_Watermeyer.21Aug20_4_ - Accepted Manuscript
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Accepted/In Press date: 5 August 2020
e-pub ahead of print date: 4 September 2020
Published date: 1 March 2022
Keywords: Credentialism, commodification, higher education, marketization, massification, values

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 443776
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/443776
ISSN: 0159-6306
PURE UUID: b61a7a43-f19f-4959-8145-3df0b4defe03
ORCID for Michael Tomlinson: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-1057-5188

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Date deposited: 11 Sep 2020 16:30
Last modified: 27 Apr 2022 05:46

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Author: Richard Watermeyer

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