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Social and Human Capital as Outputs of Higher Education

Gough, A.Martin (2005) Social and Human Capital as Outputs of Higher Education. In: Society for Research into Higher Education Annual Conference, 13-15 Dec.2005, Edinburgh University. (Unpublished) (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:25324)

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My purpose is to investigate the extent to which social capital is a useful tool for analysing performance of the HE sector, using conceptual analysis and argument.

Performance targets for higher education include measures of output such as "employability", with league tables drawn up of percentages of graduates who find suitable employment or further study, as opposed to those who find themselves effectively unemployed or in "non-graduate" employment, in the DLHE First Destination statistics. Ewart Keep explains how the production of more more-qualified workers is likely to lead to more more-qualified workers in lower tiers of the labour market. This is something not directly in the control of the HE sector.

It does not follow from this that a pure macroeconomic human capital analysis of higher education is flawed, since graduates might perform better than non-graduates in the lower skill jobs and the economy runs more healthily than it would do otherwise. This highlights the anti-individualist and anti-humanist character of human capital, belying the presentation of it by policy analysts as an attribute of individuals and operationally equivalent to qualification level attained or time accumulated by the individual in formal education.

The poverty of economic frameworks for measuring the broader value of education and learning processes has led some to embrace and develop alternative analyses. In this paradigm, for instance, Tom Schuller claims that what makes social capital interesting is that it gets away from the individualism of human capital and that it can be an output of educational processes leading to wellbeing of communities on top of mere economic measures: but Schuller exemplifies a conceptual confusion about both human and social capital.

The concept of social capital is theoretically weak at the general level but more specific usages of the term have more modest explanatory power. Considering it independently of its links to education and learning, it provides a clue to an alternative social ontology to individualism but only through the 'bridging' rather than the 'bonding' aspect (the 'linking' aspect is a contradiction in terms). Considering its links to education and learning then it provides more clue to its nature as an alternative social ontology. Social capital is seen in policy circles as a positive bulwark against social deprivation and community degeneration. It is, however, problematic to claim that top down provision of educational resources, including higher education, can work towards this end, as opposed to undermining it

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Paper)
Projects: [146] Learning & Social Cohesion
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BD Speculative Philosophy
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Divisions > Directorate of Education > Centre for the Study of Higher Education
Depositing User: Martin Gough
Date Deposited: 16 Aug 2010 15:29 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:03 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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