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Generic distinctiveness and the entrepreneurial self: a case study of English Higher Education




Young people are increasingly called upon to invest in educational qualifications, experience opportunities and other character forming activities in order to stand out from the crowd. This fetishizing of generic distinctiveness is promoted throughout education in England, and particularly Higher Education. This paper considers the policy and theoretical implications of the quest to enfranchise distinctiveness in English HE. From a policy perspective the universal promotion of distinction reflects how recent neoliberal reforms in HE have been moderated by a commitment to a liberal ethos of equality of opportunity. Theoretically the mantra of standing out from the crowd is emblematic of the entrepreneurial self as a tool of governmentality. The expectation of compulsory distinction encapsulates the duality of individualisation and regulation that is central to the project of governmentality. This duality is also implicit in the activity of enterprise and how it is calibrated by competition. Being entrepreneurial stimulates innovation but the uncertainty of competition may simultaneously stimulate isomorphic behaviours. The paper concludes by reviewing what the promotion of generic distinctiveness infers for young people and how the promotion of distinction is also bound up with the mantra of confidence.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 28, 2018
Publication Date Apr 5, 2018
Journal Journal of Youth Studies
Print ISSN 1367-6261
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 21
Issue 9
Pages 1216-1231
Keywords employability, higher education, neoliberalism, entrepreneur, governmentality
Publisher URL