, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 24-44

Competitiveness, the Knowledge-Based Economy and Higher Education

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Abstract

This article explores the appeal of the economic narratives of globalisation, competitiveness, and the knowledge-based economy and the impact of the economic and extra-economic tendencies that they both construe and help to construct with special reference to higher education. The argument develops in five steps: First, it analyses the socially constructed nature of competitiveness, exemplifying this from the influential account of Michael Porter and his Harvard Business School associates; second, it shows how the ‘knowledge-based economy’ (or KBE) concept developed as a scientific paradigm and policy paradigm in the context of the crisis of Fordism and how it has influenced public discourse on educational reform; third, it reviews how Porterian propositions on competitiveness have been translated into a ‘knowledge brand’ that is promoted by academic–guru–consultants and relayed through research centres, policy networks, and advisory services; fourth, it explores how the KBE is being re-contextualised in part in terms of ‘knowledge and higher education clusters’, ‘knowledge hubs’, etc., and their role in competitiveness; and fifth, it notes some implications of these economic imaginaries, governmental technologies, and emergent modes of growth for higher education.