The article investigates the causes and consequences of the increased engagement of British universities with employability and skills initiatives. By employing case studies of six universities based in England, it asks whether the increased engagement between higher education and the labour market is driven by universities or business and whether such engagement has increased the diversity of the higher education sector. Findings suggest that the alignment between labour market needs and educational provision in universities is strongly mediated by the competitive environment within which higher education institutions have been operating since the late 1990s: the higher education market – not the labour market – is the key driver for universities to engage in employability and skills initiatives. The article also questions the assumption that ‘competition’ leads to ‘differentiation’ in higher education. Rather, isomorphic tendencies seem to prevail over differentiation in the context of a highly competitive higher education market.
- higher education
- organisational change