Notions of flexibility in UK higher education: core and periphery re-visited?

Cloonan, M. (2004) Notions of flexibility in UK higher education: core and periphery re-visited? Higher Education Quarterly, 58(2-3), pp. 176-197. (doi:10.1111/j.1468-2273.2004.00267.x)

Full text not currently available from Enlighten.

Publisher's URL:


In recent years the rhetoric of flexibility has become increasingly influential within the UK's Higher Education (HE) sector. In reports, such as that of the National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education (NCIHE, 1997), in Green Papers such as the Learning Age (DfEE, 1998) and its Scottish equivalent, Opportunity Scotland (Scottish Office, 1998), in university mission statements, in course advertisements, prospectuses and brochures, in all these places and more, exhortations of flexibility have emerged almost unchallenged. Indeed, flexibility became one of the buzz words of 1990s academe. Where discussions of flexibility exist (Edwards, 1997; Schuller et al., 1998; Johnston, 1999) they have hitherto often been limited to contextualisation accounts, rather than attempting critiques. This article digs deeper by looking at various aspects of flexibility within UK HE. It suggests that by examining notions of flexibility as they were developed in labour market theory during the 1980s, it is possible to gain greater understanding of current discourses of flexibility in HE. It further suggests that notions of core and periphery taken from the labour market have their parallels in UK HE. Finally, it argues that thus far UK HE can be characterised as having an inflexible core which limits flexibility to the more peripheral areas and discusses the merits of some forms of inflexibility.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Cloonan, Professor Martin
Authors: Cloonan, M.
Subjects:L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
College/School:College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Music
Journal Name:Higher Education Quarterly
Published Online:09 December 2004

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record