Impact of Marketization on Higher Education in the UK


Marketization is an increasing phenomenon within the current environment.Every sector of the economy continues to adopt the concept of marketization in a bid to enhance efficiency, effectiveness, and competitiveness of the affected sectors.One of the main sectors identified in the current literature review is higher education.

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The paper below provides a critical literature review on the basis of theoretical and empirical reviews. The theoretical review identifies and explains the theory of marketization whereas the empirical review evaluates the varied findings and views of the scholars and researchers on the impact of marketization on higher education. The results of the review state that there are both negative and positive impacts of marketization on higher education in respect to UK.

Key words: Marketization, higher education, theoretical, empirical


The following is a review of literature on the impact of marketization on higher education in the UK. Evidently, marketization, which involves the restructuring, remodelling, and transformation of publicly-owned enterprises or organisations into market-based entities, continues to be a common phenomenon especially in the current century. Through marketization, majority of the higher learning institutions in the UK have been transformed from being owned by the government to market-oriented institutions to enhance quality and operations. A number of researchers and scholars have conducted an evaluation and analysis on the impact of the concept on higher education in the UK. Therefore, the current paper aims at reviewing some of the literatures explaining the impact of marketization on higher education. In accomplishing this objective, the current literature review is performed on the basis of theoretical and empirical reviews. The review ends with a concluding remark that summarises the main points whilst stating the stand of the analysis.

Theoretical Review

Marketization theory describes the functionality of marketization. According to Raffe and Croxford (2013), the theory of marketization provides a good foundation to nations in introducing the aspects of choices, competition, and public accountability, which are essential in enhancing the quality of products or services under production. Evidently, the theory of marketization helps in eliminating different economic problems and concepts such as unfavourable market competition, inefficiencies in markets, and the lack of players and market forces that are likely to influence the production process. Based on the theory of marketization argues it is important to transform an entire economy by getting rid of the planned economic system and allowing market-based scenario to prevail in the economy in question (Quinlan, 2014). Amongst the aspects discussed within the theory of marketization include liberalisation, contracting reforms, stimulating of competition, incentive creation, and outsourcing reforms that will help in transforming the higher education sector. Other aspects explained within the theory of marketization include the reduction of regulation, opening market-oriented systems, and effective allocation of resources (Xue-chao, 2012). From such perceptions, it is arguably important to note that the theory of marketization explains the fact that through the concept of liberalising an economy all the trade barriers and price controls are significantly removed, which provide space to the various stakeholders to actively engage in ensuring that there is high quality production process.

From the perspective of the marketization theory, a number of economies across the globe are calling upon for the deregulation of institutions of higher learning with the aim of making them more competitive within the global market. The 2013 year has been a year of marketization of the higher education system in the UK (Raffe & Croxford, 2013). Throughout the 2013, UK developed policies and strategies towards attaining a fully marketised system especially for the higher education sector. Since 2013 UK has developed numerous and possibly effective policies that are aimed at encouraging the expansion of higher education. Expansion of higher education as anticipated by the UK government through development of various policies has the sole objective of increasing participation of all the stakeholders in education (McNeill, 2012). Increased participation of all involved stakeholders in the higher education courtesy of marketization concept results into a more educated workforce, which has actually enabled the UK to experience a growth in its economy. Indeed, marketization of the higher education in UK has offered a perfect ground-breaking insight on how the government policies can be employed towards altering the structures and operations of different institutions for higher learning especially universities and technical colleges (Xue-chao, 2012). The following section provides an empirical review of the previous studies and views of the scholars on the impact of the marketization on higher education with special focus to the UK.

Empirical Review

Different scholars and researchers have performed evaluation, analysis, and studies on the impact of marketization on higher education in the UK. Brown (2013) conducted a study that aimed at describing the concept of market-based policies with regards to higher education in the UK. In addition, Brown (2013) also aimed at assessing the historical background regarding the current reforms within higher education in UK especially in respect to marketization. The study by Brown (2013) established that there has been an improvement in higher education as seen within the idea of competition, efficiency, responsiveness, as well as innovation courtesy of marketization. From the perspective of the theory of marketization, Brown (2013) argued that marketization has provided the opportunity for different stakeholders other than government to also engage in providing services of education and learning in higher institutions of learning. Therefore, from the study of Brown it is evident that marketization has positive impact on higher education within UK.

The other study was performed by Hommel and King (2013) who sought to find out the financial dimension of specific reforms by the government especially in respect to developing an educational sector that is risk-based. From the corporate risk management literature, Hommel and King (2013) found out that business schools, which continues to adopt the risk-based regulations and reforms to meet their objectives and targets with respect to learning process, face a lot of challenges especially in line with managing risks. In this respect, Hommel and King (2013) established the fact that business schools especially within the ranks of universities and other institutions of higher learning should be careful about their financial solvency through effective and efficient maintenance of functioning risks.

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Hence, on the perspective of the study conducted by Hommel and King (2013), it is evident that in as much as marketization provides some positive impacts there are negative impacts that accrue due to the concept for instance the increase exposure to various financial risks.

Natale and Doran (2012) also performed a study on the marketization of education in a bid to identify the ethical dilemma that exists in the same. From the study, it is clear that the marketing of education continues to be epidemic, which calls for the suffusion of both practices and principles of business in the management of higher education. However, Natale and Doran (2012) established in their study that in as much as the higher education is becoming more advanced, efficient, effective, and very competitive, the idea of exposing higher education to marker-based systems has resulted into increased costs of education. As a result, there is a growing ethical concern, that is, even though on one side the higher education sector is becoming more efficient, effective, and competitive, the cost of accessing such higher education has become higher and unattainable since the pricing has been left on market forces. Such views have also been put forward by Tapper (2013), who argue that despite positive impacts of marketization on higher education, the market-based systems have exposed the pricing of higher education to market forces, which makes the entire cost expensive. Hence, there is need to identify whether to enhance efficiency at the expense of the cost of providing education.

The other study was conducted by Holmwood (2012) with an aim of analysing markets and publics as the new battlegrounds for the sector of higher education across many economies. Holmwood (2012) evaluated the recent policy changes especially started by the British Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government. The policy by the coalition government is a preferred paradigm shift with respect to restructuring and remodelling of the higher education sector. The findings from the study showed that there has been radical and neo-liberal approach towards transforming the higher education sector. So far, the policies developed by the government have been very successful in enhancing the efficiency, effectiveness, and competitiveness of higher education. However, Holmwood (2012) stated in the study that the only problem with transforming higher education sector into a market-based system is the fact that monocultural perspectives are likely to result into value of what is lost. Despite the problem of monoculture as created by the market-based systems, Holmwood (2012) strongly believe that marketization is indeed a good concept; a view that has also been supported by Nickola et al (2012). Consequently, marketization continues to be a good foundation for changing higher education in the UK.


The above is a literature review explaining the impacts of marketization on higher education with special focus to the UK. The review contains two main sections, namely, the theoretical review and the empirical review. On the basis of the theoretical review, it is evident that the theory of marketization calls for the removal of the public or government dominance in the running and management of institutions of higher learning. What’s more, the theory of marketization explains that through changing the higher education sector to market-based system, the private sector is highly involved, which results into enhanced efficiency, effectiveness, and competitiveness of the higher institutions of learning. On a different perspective, the empirical review provides an analysis and evaluation of the various findings by different researchers and scholars on the impact of marketization on higher education. From the empirical review, it is clear that whereas there are numerous positive impacts of marketization on higher education, the concept also has negative impacts on the same sector.

List of References

Brown, R. 2013, “Access to Higher Education: The Shift towards Market-Based Policies in the UK”, DICE Report, vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 23-27.

Holmwood, J. 2012, “Markets versus Publics: The New Battleground of Higher Education”, Harvard International Review, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 12-15.

Hommel, U. & King, R. 2013, “The emergence of risk-based regulation in higher education”, The Journal of Management Development, vol. 32, no. 5, pp. 537-547.

McNeill, T., 2012, ‘‘Don’t affect the share price’’: social media policy in higher education as reputation management. Research in Learning Technology, vol. 20.

Natale, S.M. & Doran, C. 2012, “Marketization of Education: An Ethical Dilemma”, Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 105, no. 2, pp. 187-196.

Nickolai, D. H., Hoffman, S. G., & Trautner, M. N., 2012, Can a knowledge sanctuary also be an economic engineThe marketization of higher education as institutional boundary work. Sociology Compass, vol. 6, no. 3; Pp. 205-218.

Quinlan, K. M., 2014, Everything for saleThe marketisation of UK higher education. By Roger Brown with Helen Carasso. British Journal of Educational Studies, (ahead-of-print), 1-3.

Raffe, D., & Croxford, L., 2013, How stable is the stratification of higher education in England and Scotland?. British Journal of Sociology of Education, (ahead-of-print), 1-23.

Tapper, T., 2013, Roger Brown and H. Carasso: Everything for saleThe marketisation of UK higher education. Higher Education, vol. 66, no. 5; Pp. 641-643.

Xue-chao, Y. H. J. M., 2012, Marketization of Higher Education in the UK: The Perspective of Financing [J]. Tsinghua Journal of Education, vol. 3, no. 015.

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