Neoliberalization and managerialization of 'education' in England and Wales: a case for reconstructing education

Beckmann, Andrea, Cooper, Charlie and Hill, Dave (2009) Neoliberalization and managerialization of 'education' in England and Wales: a case for reconstructing education. Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, 7 (2) . pp. 310-345. ISSN 2051-0969 [Article]


This paper argues that the neoliberalization of education in England, begun in the 1980s, is having profoundly harmful effects on the lives of individuals and society. Neoliberalism represents a shift away from the post-war social democratic notion of universal "citizenship" rights/identities toward a system of individual consumer rights/identities. In education, neoliberal reforms have exposed state provision to privatization and marketization, and the ideology of the "new managerialism" and its belief in "business" management practices. As Whitty (2000) argues, these developments have been fostered by the belief that the private-sector approach is superior to that traditionally adopted in the public sector - requiring public-sector institutions to operate more like those in the private sector, and encouraging private (individual/family) decision making in place of political and professional judgments. These changes have made the provision of education services more unequal and selective, intensifying "racial", "gendered" and class-based hierarchies as a consequence (Whitty et al. 1998). Young people have become increasingly treated as "human capital" in need of training for paid work rather than a broad-based critical pedagogy. These policies have been accompanied by cuts in public spending and a discourse of antagonism to local democracy, the public sector, workers and unions. A corollary of this has been more resources being directed into the more expensive mixed economy of provision and the erosion of education workers' conditions of service (Lewis et al. 2009. For global impacts of neoliberalism on education see Hill 2009a, b; Hill and Kumar 2009; Hill and Rosskam 2009). In sum, the English education system has been increasingly impoverished over the last 30 years with detrimental consequences for democracy, equity and workers' rights. In this paper we explore the dimensions of and potential resistances to this disenchanting status quo. We begin by outlining the drivers behind the privatization and marketization of education services before then detailing the impact of these changes on the education system (and, as a consequence, society) in England and Wales. This latter section largely focuses on developments within the higher education (HE) sector. We argue that changes imposed in the name of "efficiency" are leading to the increasing production of uncritical thinkers compliant to the needs of the market, where people are treated as mere "human capital" prepared for "jobs" and where there are increasingly fewer spaces for providing/allowing for the provision of broad-based learning and critical awareness. In setting out an appreciation of these developments we draw on the work of Stefan Sullivan (2002) and his thesis on the enduring appeal of Marxism for understanding developments in postindustrial British society – in particular, the tendency towards banality – and means of resisting these.

Item Type: Article
Research Areas: A. > School of Health and Education
Item ID: 5056
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Depositing User: Hilary Cummings
Date Deposited: 21 Apr 2010 10:06
Last Modified: 20 May 2020 01:26

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