Competitiveness, the Knowledge-Based Economy and Higher Education
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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.
KeywordsCompetitiveness Economic imaginary Knowledge-based economy Knowledge brand Michael Porter Higher education
The authors acknowledge the support received at different steps in the research for this article from the British Academy for Sum (no. BARDA-48854) and from the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) for Jessop (RES-051-27-0303). They are also grateful for feedback from the editors of this special issue.
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