Higher Education

, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 191–208 | Cite as

Higher education as human risk capital

  • Osmo Kivinen
  • Sakari Ahola


Both the rhetoric of human capital and the information society are based on the idea of continuous progress. The politics of European governments rest on a simplified presumption that to produce more and higher educational credentials is the same as to produce more human capital. The information society rhetoric is saying that the expanding human capital serves both societies, firms and individuals as a direct route to economic growth, since people are living and working in the conditions of more knowledge-intensive production in the so-called information society. In this article we will concentrate on analysing the gap between the reborn human capital ideology, represented in current labour market rhetoric, and the everyday realities of human risk capital faced by graduates. We discuss the changing labour markets, presenting an extended model describing the various social mechanisms which affect graduate employment. Information society implies also the 'information State', since especially in the Nordic countries, the State still has a firm grip on higher education and the labour market, in spite of the popular market rhetoric. We also ask to what extent, instead of traditional organizational careers and permanent jobs, the future of higher education graduates can be described in terms of boundaryless careers or entrepreneurial work.


Labour Market Human Capital Information Society Educational Credential Change Labour Market 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aamodt, P.O. and Arnesen, C.Å. (1995). 'The relationship between expansion in higher education and the labour market in Norway', European Journal of Education30(1), 65-76.Google Scholar
  2. Ahola, S. (1999). The Matching of Educational and Occupational Structures in Finland and Sweden. CEDEFOP Document, Thessaloniki (forthcoming).Google Scholar
  3. Ahola, S., Kivinen, O. and Rinne, R. (1992a). 'Transition from secondary to higher education', in Kivinen, O. and Rinne, R. (eds.), Educational Strategies in Finland in the 1990s. Research Unit for the Sociology of Education. Turku: University of Turku, Research Reports 8, pp. 17-36.Google Scholar
  4. Ahola, S. and Arasmo, A. (1997). 'Tohtoridoktriinilla tietoyhteiskuntaan (Into the information society with doctor doctrine)', Kanava26(2), 126-128.Google Scholar
  5. Arthur, M. and Rousseau, D.M. (1996). 'Conclusion: A lexicon for the new organizational era', in Arthur, M. and Rousseau, D.M. (eds.), The Boundaryless Career. A New Employment Principle for a New Organizational Era. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 370-382.Google Scholar
  6. Avis, J. (1996). 'The myth of the post-fordist society', in Avis, J. et al. (eds.), Knowledge and Nationhood. Education, Politics and Work. London: Cassell.Google Scholar
  7. Avveduto, S. (1995). 'Research training in Italy', in Research Training. Present and Future. Paris: OECD, pp. 105-120.Google Scholar
  8. Bailey, T. (1991). 'Jobs of the future and the education they will require: Evidence from occupational forecasts', Educational Researcher20(2), 11-20.Google Scholar
  9. Bell, D. (1973). The Coming of the Post-industrial Society. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  10. Beltramo, J-P., Bourdon, J. and Paul, J-J. (1996). 'An attempt to forecast the labour market for scientists in France', in Brennan, J., Kogan, M. and Teichler, U. (eds.), Higher Education and Work. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, pp. 227-238.Google Scholar
  11. Bills, D.B. (1992). 'A survey of employer surveys: What we know about labour markets from talking with bosses', Research in Social Stratification and Mobility11, 3-31.Google Scholar
  12. Bleiklie, I. (1994). 'Norwegian and Swedish graduate reform policies', Higher Education Policy7(1), 18-24.Google Scholar
  13. Bourdieu, P. (1986). 'Forms of capital', in Richardson, J.G. (ed.), Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education. New York: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  14. Bourdieu, P. (1993). Sociology in Question. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  15. Bourdieu, P. (1996). The State Nobility. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  16. Bourdieu, P. and Passeron, J-C. (1990). Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  17. Bourdieu, P. and Wacquant, L. (1992). An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  18. Braverman, H. (1974). Labour and Monopoly Capital. New York: Monthly Press Review.Google Scholar
  19. Brown, P. (1997). 'Cultural capital and social exclusion: Some observations on recent trends in education, employment and labour market', in Helve H. and Brynner J. (eds.), Youth and Life Management. Research Perspectives. Helsinki: University Press, pp. 17-43.Google Scholar
  20. Brown, P. and Scase, R. (1994). Higher Education and Corporate Realities: Class, Culture and the Decline of Graduate Careers. London: ULC Press.Google Scholar
  21. Burgess, R., Hogan, J., Pole, C. and Sanders, L. (1995). 'Research training in the United Kingdom', in Research training. Present and Future. Paris: OECD, pp. 135-158.Google Scholar
  22. Clark, B. (1998). Creating Entrepreneurial Universities. Organizational Pathways of Transformation. Oxford: IAU Press/Pergamon.Google Scholar
  23. Collins, R. (1979). The Credential Society. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  24. Gibbons, M. et al. (1994). The New Production of Knowledge. The Dynamics of Science and Research in Contemporary Societies. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  25. Granovetter, M. (1995). Getting a Job. A Study of Contacts and Careers. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  26. Hodkinson, P. (1996). 'Careership: The individual, choices and markets in the transition into work', in Avis, James et al. (eds.), Knowledge and Nationhood. Education, Politics and Work. London: Cassell.Google Scholar
  27. Julien, G. (1995). 'Research training in Canada', in Research training. Present and Future. Paris: OECD, pp. 67-84.Google Scholar
  28. Kalleberg, A, and Sørensen, A. (1979). 'The sociology of labour markets', Annual Review of Sociology5, 351-379.Google Scholar
  29. Kerckhoff, A. (1996). 'Building conceptual and empirical bridges between studies of educational and labour force careers', in Kerckhoff, A. (ed.), Generating Social Stratification. Toward a New Research Agenda. Oxford: Westview Press, pp. 37-56.Google Scholar
  30. Kivinen, O. (1997a). 'Graduate credentials in a changing labour market', Higher Education in Europe22(4), 443-455.Google Scholar
  31. Kivinen, O. (1997b). 'In quest of expertise and humility', in Kurtakko, K., Kivinen, O. and Eskola, J. (eds.), Adult Education Without Barriers. Discussion and Research in European Context. Unversity of Lapland, Publications C 16, Rovaniemi.Google Scholar
  32. Kivinen, O. and Ahola, S. (1998). 'Transition from school to work: Tightening bond — broadening perspectives', Paper presented at the 24th ISA World Congress of Sociology, July 26-August 1. Montreal.Google Scholar
  33. Kivinen, O. and Rinne, R. (1995). 'Higher education, mobility and inequality: The Finnish case', European Journal of Education31(3), 289-310.Google Scholar
  34. Lewis, T. (1996). 'Studying the impact of technology on work and jobs', Journal of Industrial Teacher Education33(3), 44-62.Google Scholar
  35. Lewis, T., Stone, J., Shipley, W. and Madzar, S. (1998). 'The transition from school to work. An examination of the literature', Youth and Society29(3), 259-292.Google Scholar
  36. Miller, S.F. and Rosenbaum, J.E. (1997). 'Hiring in a Hobbesian World. Social infrastructure and employers' use of information', Work and Occupations24(4), 498-523.Google Scholar
  37. Ministry of Education (1997a). The Joy of Learning. A National Strategy for Lifelong Learning.Committee Report 1997, 14. Helsinki: Edita.Google Scholar
  38. Ministry of Education (1997b). Aineksia tietoyhteiskunnan työllistämisstrategiaan (Material for an Employment Strategy in the Information Society). Helsinki: Edita.Google Scholar
  39. Murphy, J. (1993). 'A degree of waste: The economic benefits of educational expansion', Oxford Review of Education19(1), 9-31.Google Scholar
  40. Neave, G. (1996). 'Higher education in transition: Twenty-five years on', Higher Education Management8(3), 15-24.Google Scholar
  41. OECD (1983). Education and Work. The Views of the Young. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  42. OECD (1992). From Higher Education to Employment. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  43. OECD (1995). Research Training. Present and Future. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  44. Psacharopoulos, G. (1986). 'Links between education and the labour market: A broader perspective', European Journal of Education21(4), 409-415.Google Scholar
  45. Psacharopoulos, G. (1991). 'The perennial mismatch and ways to solve it', Vocational Aspect of Education (April) 42, 127-132.Google Scholar
  46. Raider, H.J. and Burt R.S. (1996). 'Boundaryless careers and social capital', in Arthur M. and Rousseau D.M. (eds.), The Boundaryless Career. A New Employment Principle for a New Organizational Era. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 187-200.Google Scholar
  47. Rasmussen, E. and Deeks, J. (1998). 'Entrepreneurial workers taking the rough with the smooth', in Lind, J. (ed.), Denmark and Down Under. Essays on Labour Market Regulation, LEO-serien 17. Aalborg University, pp. 145-162.Google Scholar
  48. Reich, R. (1992). The Work of the Nations. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  49. Teichler, U. (1996). Higher Education and Graduate Employment in Europe. Werkstattberichte 52,Wissenschaftliches Zentrum für Berufs-und Hochschulforschung. Universität Gesamthochschule Kassel.Google Scholar
  50. Teichler, U. and Kehm, B.M. (1995). 'Towards a new understanding of the relationships between higher education and employment', European Journal of Education30(2), 115-132.Google Scholar
  51. Tjeldvoll, A. (1997). A Service University in Scandinavia? University of Oslo, Institute for Educational Research, Report No. 9.Google Scholar
  52. Unesco (1983). The Transition from Technical and Vocational Schools to Work. Paris: Unesco.Google Scholar
  53. Webster, F. (1994). 'What Information Society?', The Information Society10(1), 1-23.Google Scholar
  54. Whitte, J.C. and Kalleberg, A. (1995). 'Matching training and jobs: The fit between vocational education and employment in the German labour market', European Sociological Review11(3), 293-317.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Osmo Kivinen
    • 1
  • Sakari Ahola
    • 1
  1. 1.Research Unit for the Sociology of EducationUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland

Personalised recommendations