22 SES 08 B, Management and Governance in Higher Education
Parallel Paper Session
In the last decade the financial burden for undergraduate education has been substantially shifted in England from the state to the individual. This policy change has received plenty of attention in the research literature (e.g. Davies et al. 2009, Callender 2010, Mangan et al., 2010, Harrison and Hatt 2011, Davies et al. 2012). However, the appetite of government to shape practice and performance in higher education has not been reduced by its reluctance to pay for students’ participation. In the words (Cable 2011) of the Secretary of State for Business and Industry:
"[Higher Education strategy] will remain firmly on improving teaching; on new, innovative ways of organising undergraduate courses; on making sure that all applicants can see essential information about contact time, work experience opportunities, subsequent employability data and the like on universities' websites. We're intent on seeing the sector modernise and also achieve greater operational efficiency, recognising that our world class institutions have a broader mission than fitting in with our financial constraints."
This paper traces the emergence of a policy of ‘government as information broker’ in relation to participation in higher education. This part of the paper uses documentary and web sources to provide an account of the actions of government in creating a need for information and in taking actions which are declared as beneficial for informing student choice. The paper also evaluates this emerging policy by gathering evidence of students’ ‘choice’ behaviour. Whilst there have been several large scale surveys (e.g. Connor et al. 2001, UNITE 2007, Purcell et al., 2008, Renfrew et al. 2010) investigating students’ use and interpretation of information available about Higher Education, these have not been previously compared or used to reflect on the emergence of the new policy stance. The account of the government’s role as information broker also uses other sources (such as OfSTED 2010) which offer The judgement emerging from any evaluation of the policy stance of ‘government as broker’ will depend critically on assumptions made about the nature of students’ choice. For this reason the paper also evaluates the policy of ‘government as broker’ from some alternative theoretical perspectives: rational choice; bounded rationality and cultural capital.
Cable, Rt Hon. V. (2011) Speech to Universities UK Annual Conference, September 8th 2011. Available online at http://www.bis.gov.uk/news/speeches/vince-cable-uuk-conference-2011. Callender, C. (2010) Bursaries and Institutional Aid in higher education in England: do they safeguard and promote fair access. Oxford Review of Education, 36, 1, pp. 45-62. Connor, H., Burton, R., Pearson, R., Pollard, E. and Regan, J. (2001). The Right Choice? A follow-up to making the right choice. London/Universities UK/Department for Education and Skills. Davies, P., Mangan, J. and Hughes, A. (2009). Participation, Financial Support and the Marginal Student. Higher Education 58, 2, pp. 193-204. Davies, P., Mangan, J., Hughes, A. and Slack, K. (2012) Labour market motivation and undergraduates’ choice of degree subject, British Educational Research Journal, iFirst Harrison, N. and Hatt, S. (2011) Expensive and failing? The role of student bursaries in widening participation and fair access in England. Studies in Higher Education, iFirst Mangan, J., Hughes, A., Davies, P. and Slack, K. (2010). Fair Access: explaining the association between social class and students’ choice of university, Studies in Higher Education. 35, 3, pp. 335-350. OfSTED (2010) Moving through the system – information, advice and guidance. London. OfSTED. Available online at http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/node/2435. Purcell, K., Elias, P., Ellison, R., Atfield, G., Adam, D. and Livanos, I. (2008). Applying for Higher Education – the diversity of career choices, plans and expectations. Findings from the first FutureTrack Survey of the ‘class of 2006’ applicants for Higher Education. Warwick: HECSU/UCAS/Warwick Institute for Employment Research. Renfrew, K., Baird, H., Green, H., Davies, P., Hughes, A., Mangan, J. and Slack, K. (2010) Understanding the information needs of users of public information about higher higher education. Manchester. Oakleigh Consulting Ltd.
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