Capability and the Language of Educational Research

  • Michael WattsEmail author
Part of the Educational Research book series (EDRE, volume 4)


It has been suggested that there is “a perplexing absence of an appropriate language within which to speak of the university” (Barnett & Standish, 2003, p. 216), and this chapter offers if not a language then a dialect that may add to the discussion of higher education. In the UK, policies seeking to widen participation in higher education try to reconcile the two concerns of economic growth and social justice. However, even though widening participation students may obtain some benefits from their higher education, they are likely to remain relatively disadvantaged when compared with their more middle-class peers. Nonetheless, the government persists with its arguments that hold out the potential benefits of widening participation to all. The economic and social justice arguments for widening participation can be sustained if they are juxtaposed within the hyperreality of higher education in which the rhetoric of widening participation has replaced its original and authentic reality. Yet, peering through the hyperreal, it becomes clear that these policies are utilitarian in nature and cannot serve both good and Mammon


High Education Social Justice Cultural Capital Capability Approach Character Planning 
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.


  1. Archer, A., Hutchings, M., & Ross, A. (2003). Higher education and social class: Issues of exclusion and inclusion. London: RoutledgeFalmer.Google Scholar
  2. Barnett, R., & Standish, P. (2003). Higher education and the university. In N. Blake, P. Smeyers, R. Smith, & P. Standish (Eds.), The Blackwell guide to the philosophy of education (pp. 215–233). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
  3. Baudrillard, J. (1993). Symbolic exchange and death. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  4. Baudrillard, J. (1998). The consumer society. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  5. Bentham, J. (1789/1996). An introduction to the principles of morals and legislation (J. Burns & H. Hart, Eds.). Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  6. Bourdieu, P. (1996). The state nobility. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  7. Brennan, J., & Shah, T. (2003). Access to what? Converting educational opportunity into employment opportunity. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Comin, F. (2007). Concepts of development: The role of education. In D. Bridges, P. Jucevičienė, R. Jucevičius, T. McLaughlin, & J. Stankevičiūtė (Eds.), Higher education and national development (pp. 87–102). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  9. Crocker, D. (1992). Functioning and capability: The foundations of Sen’s and Nussbaum’s development ethic. Political Theory, 20(4), 584–612.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dearing, R. (1997). Higher education in the learning society: Report of the national committee of inquiry into higher education. London: HMSO.Google Scholar
  11. DfES, Department of Education and Skills. (2003). The future of higher education, cm 5735. Norwich: HMSO.Google Scholar
  12. Drèze, J., & Sen, A. (1995). India: Economic development and social opportunity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Elster, J. (1983). Sour Grapes: Studies in the subversion of rationality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Everitt, N., & Fisher, A. (1995). Modern epistemology: A new introduction. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  15. HEFCE, Higher Education Funding Council for England. (2001). The wider benefits of higher education, report 01/46. Bristol: HEFCE.Google Scholar
  16. Griffin, J. (1986). Well-being: Its meaning, measurement and moral importance. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  17. Keep, E., & Mayhew, K. (2004). The economic and distributional implications of current policies on higher education. Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 20(2), 298–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Mill, J. S. (1859/1987). On Liberty. Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  19. Mill, J. S. (1861/2001). Utilitarianism. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Co.Google Scholar
  20. Newby, H. (2004). Doing widening participation: Social inequality and access to higher education. The Colin Ball Memorial Lecture, delivered at the University of Bradford.Google Scholar
  21. Nussbaum, M. (2000). Women and human development: The capabilities approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Reay, D., David, M., & Ball, S. (2005). Degrees of choice: Social class, race and gender in higher education. Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham Books.Google Scholar
  23. Ricoeur, P. (1996). Love and justice (D. Pellauer, Trans.). In R. Kearney (Ed.), Paul Ricoeur: The hermeneutics of action. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  24. Robbins, L. (1963). Higher education. Report of the committee appointed by the Prime Minister under the chairmanship of Lord Robbins, 1961–1963, Cmd 2154. London: HMSO.Google Scholar
  25. Sen, A. (1987). The standard of living. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Sen, A. (1992). Inequality reexamined. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Sen, A. (1999). Development as freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Teschl, M., & Comin, F. (2005). Adaptive preferences and capabilities: Some preliminary conceptual explorations. Review of Social Economy, 63(2), 229–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Walker, M. (2006). Higher education pedagogies. Maidenhead: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Walker, M., & Unterhalter, E. (Eds.). (2007). Amartya Sen’s capability approach and social justice in education. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Watts, M. (2006a). Disproportionate sacrifices: Ricoeur’s theories of justice and the widening participation agenda for higher education in the UK. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 40(3), 301–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Watts, M. (2006b). What is wrong with widening participation in higher education. In J. Satterthwaite, W. Martin, & L. Roberts (Eds.), Discourse, resistance and identity formation (pp. 169–184). Stoke on Trent: Trentham Books.Google Scholar
  33. Watts, M. (2007). Capability, identity and access to elite universities. Prospero, 13(3), 22–33.Google Scholar
  34. Watts, M. (2008). Higher education and hyperreality. In P. Smeyers & M. Depaepe (Eds.), Educational research: The educationalization of social problems (pp. 141–155). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Watts, M., & Bridges, D. (2006). The value of non-participation in higher education. Journal of Education Policy, 21(3), 267–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Wolf, A. (2002). Does education matter? Myths and education and economic growth. London: Penguin.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Von Hügel Institute, St Edmund’s CollegeCambridgeEngland

Personalised recommendations