August 12, 2022

From one gap to another

In January 2018 LinkedIn released its very first Economic Graph report. These reports offer an image of the job market and hence recognize the various labour needs to be fulfilled in different regions of Europe. Following this particular reports publication, LinkedIn and the European Commission (EC) held a conference at the European Parliament on 22 May 2018. Bringing together European and nationwide parliamentarians, as well as a variety of stakeholders, the conference set out to assess how to improve cooperation between the public and economic sectors so as to minimize the expanding space in between the supply of offered training and the needs of the labour market.

From One Gap To Another

Two problems securely on the table in this conversation were the execution of public laws that would promote better discussion in between education systems and companies, and the training of tomorrows brand-new talent to fulfill the changing needs of the labour market. The agreement at the end of the meeting could be summed up as follows: in a world where development and technological progress, especially in regards to digitization, are constantly changing what makes up human capital, the education and training of skill should exceed the rigidness of the education offered by a bachelors degree, and as such must promote the acquisition of skills that will make it possible for students to adjust to the requirements of the labour market. Despite differences between the language utilized by the EC and that utilized by LinkedIn, both sides shared a perspective grounded in two axioms: first, that there is a gap to be bridged in between the supply of offered training and the needs of the labour market; and, second, that we need public policies that motivate education systems to offer future employees with the abilities that will allow them to adapt to consistent changes in the market.

From One Gap To Another

Picture by groucho from Flickr

From One Gap To Another

Taking as its beginning point this most current Council of the European Union file, which notes the crucial skills required for employability, this short article draws also on continuous work in the sociology of education, to examine the ideological roots of the ECs concern over the space between readily available higher-education-level training and labour market requires in the European context. In doing so, it analyses the ECs discourse on lifelong learning and looks back on turning points in the development of mechanisms for tailoring education systems to fit the labour market. More broadly, this analysis will assess the paradoxical nature of those neoliberal policies that aim to bridge the gap in between university education and the economic sphere.

From One Gap To Another

This LinkedIn and EC meeting coincided with publication by the Council of the European Union of a Recommendation on Key Competences for Lifelong Learning. In it, the Council upgraded the list of skills it had detailed in its 2006 recommendation, and emphasized the importance of getting skills in the field of science, innovation, engineering, and mathematics, as well as those associated to digital technologies at all stages of education and training.

From One Gap To Another

The Lisbon Strategy

From One Gap To Another

At the European level, the neoliberal university reform motion has actually been in action given that 1999, when the Bologna Declaration was signed by twenty-nine countries. The resulting Bologna Process, to which the signatories committed, refers to a harmonizing of the European higher education system and the facility of a European Higher Education Area (EHEA). As an emerging understanding economy began to shape the nature of international competition, the Bologna Process aimed most importantly to strengthen European greater education systems by promoting a particularly culture-based European university design. The EHEA job handled a brand-new dimension when it was incorporated into the Lisbon Strategy in March 2000, the objective of which was to make Europe the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic development with more and better jobs and higher social cohesion.

From One Gap To Another

The adoption of the Lisbon Strategy saw the EC take over the steering of the Bologna Process, utilizing the Open Method of Coordination (OMC). The EC continues to arrange regular conferences, throughout which the ministers of education in signatory nations agree on a series of tools to be put in place to attain the procedures goals.

This stress in between informing and training a qualified labor force and imparting reflective understanding is fundamental to university organizations, neoliberal policies on greater education have since the 1980s favoured the first of these endeavours, leaving the 2nd by the wayside. Whats more, as many sociological works have shown, the wave of neoliberal policies that got momentum in the 1990s all included decreasing public subsidies and, in numerous industrialized countries, resulted in the privatization of institutions and increased tuition charges. As I will go on to describe, these advancements have only exacerbated the problem.

Tailoring the training provided by college organizations to fit the needs of the labour market is in no way a brand-new preoccupation. As early as the Middle Ages, universities were torn in between the mission of offering trainees with a professional education in law and medicine, and that of imparting understanding of a more basic nature, divided between the trivium (grammar, reasoning and rhetoric) and the quadrivium (music, math, geometry and astronomy).

Academic Problems by Héctor Mangas #UCUStrike @hectormangas #PornstarMartini Photo by Dunk from Flickr

In the years following the adoption of the Lisbon Strategy, these tools, which assisted harmonize education systems, were carried out in national legislation across Europe. In turn, governments aligned their graduation cycles to the bachelors- masters- doctorate model, established a company for keeping an eye on European quality requirements in higher education, and presented into their curricula the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS), which assigns credit according to learning outcomes. With the EC playing a collaborating function, the signatory nations have actually therefore offered the EHEA project with a practical system for accomplishing the objectives of the Lisbon Strategy, promoting employment and strengthening the European economy.

Lifelong Learning

The production of the EHEA and the incorporation of its tools in national legislation has depended on a legitimating discourse anchored in a principle of long-lasting learning. In October 2000, the EC adopted a Memorandum on Lifelong Learning, in which it clarified the role to be played by education systems in meeting Lisbon Strategy objectives. This document, which becomes part of the European Employment Strategy, adopted by the European Council as early as 1997, contacts member states to make long-lasting finding out the pillar of a tactical structure for tailoring their education systems to fit continuously changing socio-economic demands:

As Neyrat advises us when it comes to France, long-lasting knowing represents what is in fact a tidy break with the concept of ongoing education, which, according to Condorcets viewpoint, need to extend to all people and take in the whole system of human knowledge. In contrast to the idea that continuous education ought to be ensured by the state through public funds, the principle of lifelong learning, like that of the socially active state, is based, in essence, on individual responsibility. As the skills that are at first gotten are made obsolete by socio-economic modifications, especially those caused by technological progress, it is up to people to demonstrate their continued significance therefore stay employable. Established and promoted by the OECD in the early 1990s, lifelong knowing incorporates the postulates of the human capital theory established by both Theodore Schultz and Gary Becker in the early 1960s. This theory sees workers as the supervisors of a skill set, fed by the experiences and discovering they get throughout their lives, that enables them to increase their worth on the labour market.

In the French Community of Belgium, to take one example, the blend of these 2 views was highlighted in the method lifelong knowing was gone over by members of parliament during the debate leading up to the adoption of the Bologna decree of 2004: The PS [Socialist Party] has actually always explained its desire to prioritize the broadest access to higher education, and its issue both to make sure that our fellow residents can continue discovering throughout their lives and to remain open up to languages and education abroad.

Lifelong knowing is no longer simply one element of education and training; it should end up being the assisting concept for arrangement and involvement across the complete continuum of learning contexts. The coming years needs to see the implementation [sic] of this vision. All those living in Europe, without exception, should have equal opportunities to adapt to the demands of social and financial change and to take part actively in the shaping of Europes future.

The report mentions Michel de Lamotte, who argues, for the first time in human history, most of the abilities a private choices up at the start of their training and education will be outdated by the end of their career (Tolebem 1998, 77). Long-lasting knowing, then, need to contribute to, and keep up the level of, professionalism in order for education and training to be reliable.

The EC has actually prospered in creating an agreement around this matter. Hybrid in nature, long-lasting learning discourse combines two seemingly inconsistent views on the role that education systems play in society: though it is anchored in European documents promoting a vision of education tailored towards employment, it also communicates the idea that education involves the pursuit of accessible learning objectives by individuals of any ages in all fields. This duality implies that lifelong knowing can be used to guide actors with divergent interests towards common goals.

Image by Tim Gouw from Unsplash

The human capital and Chicago School theories converge, then, in making trainees themselves forge the connection between greater education and the labour market. Under the pressure of financial obligation, students are changed into rational agents who must evaluate the potential return on their education. Coupled with the obsolescence of previous education, this modularization and breaking of disciplinary customs results in a fragmentation of academic understanding.

Such an argument might be familiar from the work of neoliberal economic expert Milton Friedman of the Chicago School, who looks for to justify making trainees choose up the tab for their education. In his 1955 book The Role of Government in Education, Friedman proposes that public financing ought only to cover obligatory education. Any state funding of organizations, he argued, should furthermore be shared with households, who might receive education vouchers permitting them to pick their favored school. As far as college is worried, Friedman believes that the role of the state should be restricted to granting loans to trainees, the repayment of which must be taken directly from the income of these future graduates once they get in the labour market.

Neoliberal ideology conceives of all human activity as a potential investment in human capital, education is still the main contributor to individuals employability. This contribution to the value of future graduates in the labour market is conceived as a private return on investment. Within this framework, the private return is thought about to be greater than the general public– that is, the socio-economic advantages people derive from their education are thought to be higher than those the state obtains from earnings taxes or other positive external results of higher education. This notion, coupled with a crisis in public financial resources, stays the dominant argument utilized by governments in the last three years for raising university tuition charges.

In their narrow method to attending to joblessness rates, politicians have forgotten that a space in between greater education and business world is a condition for maintaining the autonomy that higher education institutions require in order to enhance the production and transmission of scholastic knowledge. Autonomous, openly funded organizations offer university teachers and researchers the environment in which to produce and impart artificial and important idea. The fall-off in public subsidies to institutions makes them yet more depending on private funding, which rather than representing any selfless gesture brings with it a number of strings. Economic sector influence is shown in the rising variety of seats offered to business by instructional organizations on their boards of directors. In the field of research study, reliance on private aids not only causes the prioritization of financing for projects that meet the innovation needs of service and industry but also has damaging effects on the conditions governing publication of research results and on public access to them. This inhibition of academic liberty sacrifices the process of innovation needed if we are to find options to such contemporary issues as climate change and growing social inequality.

Image by UNclimatechange from Flickr

Towards a neoliberal anthropology of the space

In his lectures at the Collège de France in 1978 and 1979, Michel Foucault noted that neoliberalism breaks with the liberal vision of a market as a natural phenomenon. Despite the ideological differences among individuals in the Walter Lippmann Colloquium, an agreement developed around the idea that the state need to actively assist in competition and put in place guidelines that would improve organizations capability to adapt to the needs of the marketplace. Governance, then, was no longer a question of differentiating genuine locations in which the state need to or should not intervene but rather of regulating policy based on the performance of the marketplace.

Policies targeted at enhancing the relationship in between the world of higher education and the labour market, while having actually spread out and heightened over the previous 2 years, belong to a more general movement, dating to the 1970s, towards the shaping of a neoliberal society that basically abhors unproductivity. As Pierre Bourdieu composed, the proliferation of neoliberal doxa is the result of a process of domination by financial theories and their seepage within all locations of social activity. Although this neoliberal doxa did not translate into public policy up until the 1980s, it was forged as a social task in the late 1930s. In 1938, while observing the rise of Communism and Fascism, a number of globally distinguished financial experts, such as Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises and Wilhelm Röpke, met in Paris for the Walter Lippmann Colloquium to renew the foundations of liberalism.

As Foucault put it:

This article was original published in La Revue nouvelle 3/2021.

The agreement at the end of the conference could be summed up as follows: in a world where development and technological development, especially in terms of digitization, are continuously transforming what makes up human capital, the education and training of talent should go beyond the rigidity of the education offered by an undergraduate degree, and as such should promote the acquisition of abilities that will make it possible for students to adapt to the needs of the labour market. The resulting Bologna Process, to which the signatories dedicated, refers to a harmonizing of the European greater education system and the facility of a European Higher Education Area (EHEA). Hybrid in nature, lifelong learning discourse brings together two seemingly inconsistent views on the role that education systems play in society: though it is anchored in European paperwork promoting a vision of education tailored towards employment, it also conveys the idea that education involves the pursuit of accessible learning goals by people of all ages in all fields. Within this structure, the personal return is considered to be greater than the public– that is, the socio-economic benefits individuals derive from their education are thought to be greater than those the state obtains from earnings taxes or other positive external results of higher education. In their narrow technique to attending to joblessness rates, politicians have actually forgotten that a space in between higher education and the organization world is a condition for keeping the autonomy that greater education institutions require in order to enhance the production and transmission of academic knowledge.

In this reversal to which Foucault refers, all social organizations, instructional ones included, are hired to run in line with the market. Schultz and Beckers theories of human capital hence lead us to consider each human activity as a prospective financial investment in the development of individual performance. This transposition of financial values to all spheres of social activity is the culmination of the construction of the neoliberal topic, homo economicus, in which everyone is their own entrepreneur.

It is in this context, in which all social activities are included in the computation of financial profit, that we should understand the hostility shown by neoliberals to the gaps that stay in between the labour market and university education. In their view, considering that social organizations should submit to the dogma of financial efficiency, every area of activity not occupied by the market represents a loss in the performance of public financial investment in the education system.


This propensity, under neoliberalism, towards a failure to comprehend that academic institutions can offer opportunities that do not cause immediate employment raises questions about the capability of societies to sustain spaces devoted to self-governing innovative activity. Here we see a paradox for defenders of neoliberalism– a system that is, in theory, based on the concept of freedom

Equated and edited by Cadenza Academic Translations.

The marketplace economy does not take something away from federal government. Rather, it suggests, it constitutes the basic index in which one needs to position the rule for specifying all governmental action. One need to govern for the marketplace, rather than since of the market. To that extent you can see that the relationship specified by eighteenth century liberalism is entirely reversed.