22 SES 09 B, Governance Reforms and Education Markets
Higher education (HE) is increasingly relying on market mechanisms in the governance of the sector across the world (for an overview see: Jungblut and Vukasovic 2017). Albeit market forces are at work alongside other social relations in a regulated and publicly subsidised HE sector, HE markets are expanding (Komljenovic & Robertson, 2017). What we, therefore, witness is the involvement of numerous actors in imagining, constructing, maintaining and governing many different markets and quasi-markets; and more or less commodified activities in HE that are forming a global HE industry (Verger, Lubienski, & Steiner-Khamsi, 2016).
Komljenovic and Robertson (2016) argue that HE industry consists of numerous diverse, multiple and variegated markets that can be analytically divided into four groups along two dimensions. First, whether market transactions are immediately for-profit or not. Second, whether universities are sellers or buyers of things and services.
Much has been researched on markets and quasi-markets wherein universities are increasingly sellers of things and services, which results in what Ball and Youdell (2007) call endogenous privatisation. This is when universities are made business-like through quasi-market or market governance reforms (Marginson, 2013) and new public management principles are introduced into the HE sector (Bleiklie, 1998; Deem & Brehony, 2005) including governing tools like performance management and accountability measures (Middlehurst, 2004). Exogenous privatisation, on the other hand, refers to “opening up of public education services to private sector participation on a for-profit basis and using the private sector to design, manage or deliver aspects of public education” (Ball and Youdell 2007, p. 9). Research on exogenous privatisation in HE has focused primarily on how public HE is being commodified in terms of introducing tuition fees and turning students into customers (Tomlinson, 2017), the increasing numbers and forms of private providers in HE (Fielden, Middlehurst, & Woodfield, 2010; Teixeira, 2011) and the blurring of the boundaries between public/private or for-profit/not-for-profit (Middlehurst & Woodfield, 2010; Tight, 2006). Most of this research on either endogenous or exogenous privatisation focuses on universities increasingly turning into sellers.
In this paper I am advancing the argument for the other dimension of the HE industry that contains all the diverse markets around universities wherein universities increasingly buy commodities (Komljenovic & Robertson, 2017), which is far less researched. The companies that provide various things and services did not just appear in the HE sector out of nowhere. The focus of this paper is on how they cumulatively managed to penetrate the sector, although unevenly across the world. Therefore, it is not only a question of individual companies or individual commodities, but a question of companies’ collective penetration of HE in that their presence became normalised (Berndt & Boeckler, 2012).
I suggest studying market-making of private companies in HE through trust and more specifically through their trust-making strategies. Trust is fundamental to market relations in that buyers and sellers would not even engage with each other without trust (Sayer, 2002). It is also key in cognitive and normative reorientation in that the public needs to trust market actors for the markets to gain legitimacy (Beckert, 2009). I will use Beckert’s (2005) theory of enacting trust for the purpose of this paper to look at how companies actively produce trust. He specifies four forms or acts of self-presentation, namely similarity of expectation, commitment, competence and integrity (Beckert, 2005).
This exploratory study was conducted at two parallel HE events that can be seen as trade fairs (Aspers & Darr, 2011). First is the annual conference and expo of the Association of International Educators (NAFSA) held in San Diego, United States of America (USA) in May 2014. Second is the annual conference and exhibition of the European Association for International Education (EAIE) held in Prague, Czech Republic in September 2014. Their main events are their respective annual conferences and exhibitions, where participants shift between the two. NAFSA 2014 annual event hosted more than 10.000 participants; with 281 sessions held at the conference part and 413 exhibitors coming from 46 countries identified at the expo part (NAFSA, 2014). EAIE 2014 annual conference and exhibition hosted more than 5,000 participants from 94 countries with 190 exhibitors. As NAFSA and EAIE were and still are university led membership organisations, they are considered as internal associations to the HE sector. They are therefore good representations of happenings in the HE sector more generally while at the same time structuring the transformations of the sector. These two events are largest sectorial events of their kind in the world and attract everybody who wants to see and be seen. For this reasons they were chosen as sites for the research on market-making in HE. Altogether 22 interviews with representatives of private companies were conducted. Interview schedule was semi-structured and questions were adjusted or further expanded as the interview progressed. The questions inquired about the motivations of the company to attend the NAFSA or EAIE event and their practices at the events; about their services and commodities and about the company; how they approach universities, their relations with universities and the HE sector; what they see as challenges working with universities; and their views on HE in the past ten years. The interviews lasted between 30 and 45 minutes, and in some cases, up to an hour. All interviews were conducted in English and transcribed verbatim. To interpret the interviews, I applied theory-guided qualitative content analysis (Gläser & Laudel, 2013) by looking for the content for the four theoretically generated. I was open to form more themes if they would come out of data from interviews, however, this was not necessary and I found the four themes covering all of the content relating to acts of building trust in the sector.
Analysis shows that having developed sophisticated tactics and strategies, companies enact four forms of self-presentation aiming at gaining universities’ trust, i.e. similarity of expectation, commitment, competence, and integrity. Within ‘similarity of expectations’, companies first communicate shared aims with universities and then structure opportunities to become seen as insiders in the sector. Within ‘commitment’, they work together with universities and invest in the sector in various ways. They show their ‘competence’ by offering their expertise and educating universities. And finally, they communicate ‘integrity’ by communicating honesty, receiving and giving awards and showing goodwill. Companies’ active construction of trust is key in two related aspects. First, for establishing legitimacy of markets in the HE sector so that public universities start trusting private companies and forming relations. Second, to collectively penetrate the HE sector and become accepted. Thus, there seems to be a combination of networks being established before market relations and also market relations before networks. Companies have passed the critical moment in which they were treated with suspicion and hostility and became perceived as ‘insiders’ in the sector. This enables them to advance their markets and contribute to the construction of the global higher education industry.
Aspers, P. (2011). Markets. Cambridge: Polity Press. Ball, S. J., & Youdell, D. (2007). Hidden privatisation in public education. Preliminary Report, prepared by Stephen J Ball and Deborah Youdell, Institute of Education, University of London for Education International 5th World Congress, July 2007. London. Berndt, C., & Boeckler, M. (2012). Geographies of Marketization. In T. J. Barnes, J. Peck, & E. Sheppard (Eds.), The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Economic Geography (pp. 199–212). Chichester, West Sussex: Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Bleiklie, I. (1998). Justifying the Evaluative State: New Public Management Ideals in Higher Education. Journal of Public Affairs Education, 4(2), 87–100. Deem, R., & Brehony, K. J. (2005). Management as ideology: the case of “new managerialism” in higher education. Oxford Review of Education, 31(2), 217–235. Fielden, J., Middlehurst, R., & Woodfield, S. (2010). The growth of private and for-profit higher education providers in the UK (Project Report). London, UK. Jungblut, J., & Vukasovic, M. (2017). Not all markets are created equal: re-conceptualizing market elements in higher education. Higher Education. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-017-0174-5 Komljenovic, J., & Robertson, S. L. (2016). The dynamics of “market-making” in higher education. Journal of Education Policy, 31(5), 622–636. Komljenovic, J., & Robertson, S. L. (2017). Making global education markets and trade. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 15(3), 289–295. Marginson, S. (2013). The impossibility of capitalist markets in higher education. Journal of Education Policy, 28(3), 353–370. Middlehurst, R. (2004). Changing Internal Governance: A Discussion of Leadership Roles and Management Structures in UK Universities. Higher Education Quarterly, 58(4), 258–279. Middlehurst, R., & Woodfield, S. (2010). Private providers in UK and continental Europe: competition and collaboration. Valencia, Spain: 32nd Annual EAIR Forum ; 01 - 04 Sep 2010. Teixeira, P. (2011). Eppure si Muove − Marketisation and Privatisation Trends in the EHEA. Journal of the European Higher Education Area, 4, 57–72. Tight, M. (2006). Changing Understandings of “Public” and “Private” in Higher Education: the United Kingdom Case. Higher Education Quarterly, 60(3), 242–256. Tomlinson, M. (2017). Student perceptions of themselves as “consumers” of higher education. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 38(4), 450–467. Verger, A., Lubienski, C., & Steiner-Khamsi, G. (Eds.). (2016). World Yearbook of Educaiton 2016: The Global Education Industry. London: Routledge.
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