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The dynamics of human capital and the world of work

Towards a common market in contemporary tertiary education

Author - Aidan Kenny


 


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2 Research approach

The focus of this short paper is to critically review the policy agenda from an Irish context, with specific reference to human capital accumulation and recognition, and the characteristics of the new world of work. Comparisons will be drawn between the European policy agenda and the Irish Government policies. Specific questions will be explored.

  • Is there systems convergence?
  • Is there an emerging new pedagogical narrative?
  • Is there a regulatory discourse of quality?
  • What are the market implications?

The research approach is based in the domain of social science, located in the constructionist paradigm (Blaikie 2007; Crotty 2005; Guba and Lincoln 1989). As a social actor in the field of tertiary education I endeavour to ‘make sense’ of the policy environments that influence and engage the world of work in higher education. As Blaikie (2007: 22) notes the knowledge claim of constructionism ‘is the outcome of people having to make sense of their encounters with the physical world and with other people’. The research framework is developed by applying a ‘mixed methodological’ approach (Creswell 1998), combining components from Guba and Lincoln’s (1989) ‘claims, concerns, issues’, Thomas’s (1993) ‘critical observations and accounts from an insider perspective’ and Yanow’s (2000) ‘subjective interpretativism, defamiliarisation process’. The method comprises of a ‘systematic review’ (Hart 2005) of the ‘encoding process’ (Trowler 1998) of contemporary milestone higher education policy documents of the Irish Government. Broader contextual information is gathered from European policy and prominent ‘supranational organisations’ such as the OECD, WTO, UNESCO, the European University Association (EUA) and several Irish agencies, the Higher Education Authority (HEA) National Qualifications Authority of Ireland (NQAI), Institutes of Technology Ireland (IoTI). Finally from engaging in critical ‘self reflection’ (Schon 1983) as a professional in the field of higher education over the last ten years. Personal observations and considerations are detailed in relation to the actual ‘lived experience’ of policy implementation in the workplace.

The structure of the research approach is depicted in Table 1. First of all contextual information on the reform process within the European Union will be provided. Considerations will also focus on the strategies advocated by several supranational organisations. Then in the following section the Irish reform context will be explored and critical considerations will be given to ‘claims, concerns and issues’. Through this inquiry approach, signifiers relevant to human capital and the world of work will be highlighted. As a professional practitioner in the field of tertiary education and training I will reflect on experience, providing commentary from an Irish context. This type of approach is associated with ‘insider research’ (Loxley and Sears 2008) located in the social experience of education ‘praxis’ theory and practice in action.


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