Vocationalism in British Higher Education for a knowledge based economy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapterpeer-review


This chapter analyses the relationship between universities, vocational education and the professions using a a chronological telling of the history of universities in the UK. It explores graduate employment and the mediaeval university, which highlights the important role of the Latin Church and demonstrates foundational links with the professions. The early modern university is reviewed, when the power of the church waned and the role of the state grew. This era reflects the pivotal importance of Britain’s colonial ventures in the emergence of early capitalism. The relationship between industrial capitalism and universities is critically reviewed showing how UK universities learned lessons from the Humboldtian University leading to the introduction of the modern research-led university. The final section of this history explores how the contemporary neoliberal turn has facilitated the massification of higher education and the emergence of a financialised and precarious graduate workforce.
Contemporary developments in graduate employment outcomes, and the expansion of the professions are considered and linked to the growing importance of the creative and cultural industries in the post-industrial UK economy. The limited role of colleges of further education, and the importance of the adoption of mass higher education under neoliberalism is used to identify key themes in the relationship between vocational education and contemporary UK higher education. This relationship is evaluated against the many attempts to stimulate a new vocationalism for UK universities, and proposes that the willingness and disposition to learn are the new vocational qualifications of polyvalent university graduates in the knowledge economy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProfessional-Scientific Education
Subtitle of host publicationDiscourses, Perspectives, Implications, and Options for Science and Practice
EditorsVolker Rein, Johannes Wildt
Place of PublicationBerlin
PublisherVerlag Barbara Budrich
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9783847418320
ISBN (Print)9783847418320, 9783847418320, 9783847418320, 9783847429715
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2022

Bibliographical note

Pericles ‚asher‘ Rospigliosi is an economic sociologist. He is principal lecturer
in e-commerce, digital marketing and the digital economy at Brighton University School of Business and Law. For twenty years he has researched the
impact of information communication technologies on business, society and
learning. He has published widely on graduate employability, the history of
higher education and the role of technology. For many years asher has been a
firekeeper at the tipi field at Glastonbury Festival.


  • new vocationalism
  • Neoliberal university
  • professionalism
  • UK higher education
  • graduate employment
  • graduate employability


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