Marketising Post-1992 Universities in the Knowledge Economy: A Value Chain Approach

Dawn James

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This thesis sets out to examine the impact of marketisation on the value chains of a number of English post-1992 universities between 1992 and 2010. The research focuses on the relationships and interplay between knowledge and value in the context of the knowledge economy and the increasing marketisation of the higher education sector. While the extant global value chain (GVC) literature tends to focus on manufacturing networks and chains, this thesis will argue that (quasi-) public service sector value chains, especially those in higher education provide important cases for study. In-depth interviews with twelve members of the ‘institutional elite’ within the post-1992 sector of higher education, supported by rich documentary analysis, provides compelling evidence for modifications to the existing ‘value chain’ framework in order to better account for the particularities of (quasi-) public services and service work.

The research proposes a typology designed to capture fragmented and commodified knowledge, and its practical manifestations, generated within the higher education sector. Beyond this, it attempts to rationalise the notion of value (in the context of the value chain framework) with the production, diffusion and dissemination of knowledge for higher education institutions. The study also develops a broad value chain for the post-1992 sector of higher education to explore the robustness of the conceptual ‘value chain’ framework for similar organisations.

The research concludes that marketisation has indeed in part been responsible for encouraging universities to re-structure their value chains. It also challenges the conceptual reach of the existing ‘value chain’ framework by making a number of insightful observations regarding the nature of (higher education) service activities. Specifically, it identifies a number of underplayed factors including (1) the treatment of knowledge and value (2) ‘institutional elites’ (3) ‘ideology as governance’ (4) the (quasi-) public service sector and (5) place as having particular consequences for the conceptualisation of (quasi-) public service sector value chains.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Hertfordshire
  • Hardy, Jane, Supervisor
  • Culkin, Nigel, Supervisor
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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