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Marketisation Effects on Higher Education Essay


With the chances for the economic resurgence that has appeared recently in the global market, significant shifts in other domains should also be expected, education being one of them. With the rapid economic growth that is currently being witnessed, the education system is undergoing the process of marketization, which has entailed several opportunities for improving the quality of education and the availability thereof (Wiseman 2016; Li & Du 2016). The goal of this paper is to study the effects that marketization has on higher education, including its setting, its key stakeholders, and the trends that can be observed in the higher education environment currently.

Although marketization has opened a range of chances for students to enter the global market as competitive participants, it has also entailed a range of difficulties that need to be addressed immediately.

While seemingly unnoticeable, the change in academic values and the threat to the academic integrity of higher education need to be seen as critical concerns to manage in the future. Specifically, the propensity toward viewing education as a commodity and the implications of the specified perspective, including economic, academic, ethical, and cultural ones, will need to be examined. By introducing a coherent leadership system and establishing a rigid control over the process of change, one will be able to reduce the negative impact of marketization on higher education, at the same time maximizing positive effects.

Marketisation of Education

As an economic phenomenon, marketization represents a shift in the perspective about the phenomenon in question and the introduction of the elements of the market economy into it. According to Bathelt et al. (2017), marketization is ‘expanding the empire of commodities and imposing the financial world’s models of evaluation on more and more sectors of activity’ (p. 589). For example, marketization may involve the introduction of a competition element into the educational context, thus making the academic setting integrate into one of the economic environment (Su & Wood 2017).

Thus, in education, marketization can be defined as gearing education toward competition for positional goods (Bathelt et al. 2017). Applying the described notion to education, one can link the higher education setting to the contemporary business environment. Therefore, in a larger sense, marketization suggests commodification of knowledge and the creation of opportunities for making it available to anyone (Su & Wood 2017).

When considering the prerequisites of the current process of marketization in education, one needs to explore its nature and development (Brown 2015). It could be argued that the marketization of higher education emerged at the point when researches started to be funded (Brown 2015). Although the introduction of monetary reward for scholarly work should primarily be seen as the encouragement for further research, it is also often regarded as the end goal of a research project (Burstow 2017; Chubb & Watermeyer 2016). Thus, with the promotion of financial incentives as the basis for academic accomplishments, the marketization of higher education emerged.

Therefore, among the reasons for the marketization of higher education to occur, one should mention an important fact about funding. The initial plans concerning state funding have become quite difficult to attain due to the economic challenges faced by states in the global market (Altbach 2015). Due to the rise in the levels of economic uncertainty, as well as the challenges associated with high competition rates in the global market, most states have been refraining from the initial intention of funding academic institutions extensively (Pucciarelli & Kaplan 2016).

The resulting threat to the efficacy of education has created the demand for building an additional support system for state education and especially higher academic institutions (Klenk & Pavolini 2016). The observed phenomenon proves that, while seemingly unnoticeable, the connection between socioeconomic and educational factors not only exists but also defines the further choices made by educational authorities.

Effects of Marketisation of Higher Education

Marketization has had a vast impact on the educational domain, causing a vast cultural shift and realigning the priorities of students. Arguably, among the most ambiguous effects of the marketization of education, the creation of homogenous standards for the assessment of students’ levels of proficiency should be named (Hazelkom 2015). On the one hand, the observed phenomenon encourages state authorities to introduce frameworks for the homogenous academic standards in the context of higher education. With the creation of a set of rigid criteria based on which students will be evaluated, one can create an environment for continuous and consistent academic growth.

Implications of Marketisation on Academic Standards

Marketisation has had a vast effect on the changes in the criteria for assessing learners’ progress. Moreover, a recent study indicates that the introduction of marketization into the context of higher education contributes to an increase in students’ ability to build their language skills (Hall 2018). The research conducted by Hazelkom (2015) among the students that learn English as a second language (ESL) proves that the focus on marketization encourages students to build their English literacy skills more effectively, which contributes to their analytical skills (Hazelkom 2015; Tilak 2015).

Furthermore, the emphasis on the study of the English language shows that marketization in the context of higher education enables both teachers and students to recognize current trends in the global economy and acquire the skills that will be critical in their further progress in the global market.

On the other hand, the effects of marketization on academic standards can also be described as negative in their relation to the quality of education and the further impact on students’ ability to develop professional skills and characteristics. For instance, a recent study points out that the enhancement of marketization in the context of higher education causes the phenomenon known as grade inflation (Robbins, Firth & Evans 2018; Bachan 2015).

According to the definition suggested by Dueck (2016), grade inflation is the ‘increase in students’ grades without an accompanying increase in their academic achievement’ (p. 73). The observed phenomenon leads to a drastic change in students’ [perception of learning, its goals, and the role that grades play in it. Specifically, students are likely to see grades as the ultimate purpose of the studying process, dismissing the importance of acquiring knowledge and skills. As a result, learners dismiss the opportunity of engaging in lifelong learning (Bachan 2015).


With the enhancement of the process of marketization in higher education, extensive opportunities for building stronger leadership and creating teams for managing key academic processes emerged (John & Fanghanel 2015). As a result, higher educational establishments gained the reputation of cohorts that were united with the help of a strong and coherent leadership framework that will comprise transformational and innovative leadership approaches.

The specified change opens a plethora of opportunities for improving the academic setting, as well as shaping learners’ ideas of leadership, in general. For instance, the fact that being a leader is not an intrinsic characteristic but a combination of learned skills and behaviors will become evident to students, encouraging them to build their approach toward leadership and become proficient in it (John & Fanghanel 2015).

However, exploring the direct effects of marketization in higher education on the choices that leaders tend to make in the specified setting, one is likely to find out that marketization creates premises for leaders to overstep their boundaries and abuse their power. For example, the paper by Taberner (2018) suggests that, without rigid control and a set of people-oriented values, an academic institution is likely to face significant challenges. According to Taberner (2018), marketization in higher education causes the following issues:

  • Efficiency and quantity over effectiveness; autocratic, managerialist ideology over academic democracy and debate; instrumentalism over intellectualism; de-professionalization and fragmentation of the academy; increased incidence of performativity, bullying and workplace aggression; and work intensification. (Taberner 2018, p. 129)

As Taberner (2018) shows, marketization implies altering the academic setting significantly and having to face negative changes. Therefore, it is strongly recommended to examine the academic setting to which marketization is applied. Without strong and ethically positive values, one is likely to contribute to the deterioration of a range of processes within the selected setting, including not only academic ones but also the processes associated with workplace issues, staff management, quality control, and other important aspects of its functioning (John & Fanghanel 2015).

In the higher education setting, marketization affects not only students but also teachers, causing them to alter their approach toward communication and especially the leadership choices that they make. As a result, inefficient decision-making along with interpersonal conflicts occurs in the academic setting. For example, confrontations may occur between students due to increased competition between learners and the use of leadership for the purpose of personal gain.

To address the observed problem, one should incorporate the principles of constructive conflict management and emphasize the importance of collaboration and compromise during interdisciplinary communication. The proposed approach will lead to a drop in the number of confrontations in the higher education setting due to the shift in employees’ priorities. Furthermore, the use of the transformational leadership approach will allow stakeholders, including staff and students, to adjust to the changes in the higher education setting. By definition, the transformational leadership approach implies motivating participants for a positive change (John & Fanghanel 2015).

However, by far the most important aspect of using the transformational leadership technique concerns the motivation boost that it provides to the participants. By setting examples that participants can follow and creating the philosophy and values for encouraging education and lifelong learning, one will deploy the principles of marketization into the academic context.


As a result of the shift in the leadership framework, which can be observed across higher academic institutions worldwide, including the U.S., the United Kingdom, and other countries, the propensity to change emerged as a natural outcome. The importance of change in the context of higher education cannot possibly be overestimated since it provides the foundation for further progress.

Marketisation, in turn, sets the platform for the gradual and continuous change in the academic setting since it emphasizes the creation of competitive advantage and its continuous maintenance (Veggel & Howlett 2018). Therefore, with the shift toward continuous progress, higher education institutions will have to set the course for unceasing improvement. Students will need to learn to acquire new knowledge and skills from every experience. As a result, graduates of these academic institutions will be able to meet the ever-changing requirements for quality in the global market (Fejes, Runesdotter & Wärvik 2016).

Support System

In addition to the consistent framework for change in the academic setting, the incorporation of market-related principles into the framework of an academic entity implies creating a strong financial support system, which leads to a gradual development in the quality of education due to the availability of improved resources and equipment. Specifically, the marketization of education suggests that academic institutions should be capable of receiving financial support form not only the state budget but also from private benefactors (Jabbar et al. 2017). As a result, the enhancement of marketization has a direct impact on the quality of education due to the rise in resource availability levels.

Similarly, the programs aimed at the enhancement of the development within academic institutions can be sponsored by outside organizations and entities such as government-regulated bodies and authorities, as well as global organizations. As a result, the resurgence of educational programs and the associated projects may become a possibility. The concept of sponsorship is quite positive in its nature since it provides additional resources for funding a range of activities within the higher educational setting (Chong & Hung 2018). Thus, the quality of education is going to rise exponentially.

However, the opponents of private sponsorship as the source for funding in the higher education environment claim that the suggested technique may lead to the loss of control over the academic process, the deterioration of education quality, and the destruction of academic integrity (Zhu, Ren & Han 2016; Hu). It would be a mistake to claim that the described concerns are completely groundless.

For example, Edmond (2017) notes that the focus on marketization and the use of private sponsorship in higher education affects the relationships between sponsors and organizations negatively: Opposition to university sponsorship in the US has drawn on concerns that it would ‘strip the democracy out of the process, by placing authorization in the hands of college officials who aren’t held accountable directly to taxpayers’ (as cited in Lindstrom, 2014) and that HEIs do not have the existing infrastructure, specific knowledge of the day-to-day functioning of schools or capacity for authorizing responsibilities. (Edmond 2017, p. 1). In practice, this will mean that the problem of controlling changes in the academic setting may emerge after the marketization of education.

Therefore, when integrating the principles of marketization into the academic context, one should be particularly cautious about the issue of control over financial concerns and control over financial transactions within academic institutions. Unless the suggested approach is utilized, the marketization of higher education will inevitably cause financial distress that may escalate to the point where an educational institution will require additional and quite substantial support (Edmond 2017).

New Meanings

Since marketization has affected education on multiple levels, it would not be an overstatement to assume that it has led to the creation of new meanings in the contemporary academic system. For instance, the promotion of a new identity of a student as a multicultural learner who is willing to engage in the active exploration of the practical aspect of their chosen field needs to be mentioned. Because of the promotion of marketization in the higher educational setting, studying is gradually transformed from the abstract notion of gaining new information to a more practical idea of using it within a specific setting and for particular purposes such as solving problems in the business environment (Provini 2018). Consequently, with the adoption of marketization as the key direction for developing higher education, one will be able to boost learners’ motivation and help them to develop an understanding of how theory can be applied to practical tasks.

Value of Work

The introduction of marketization will also help students to develop a more practical approach toward assessing their learning process. Specifically, students will realize the importance of training specific skills or gaining certain knowledge as it pertains to the current quality standards set within the global market (Hazelkorn 2017). Thus, students will be able to build the required competence and skills.

Furthermore, the process of marketization of higher education creates additional opportunities for local labor markets. With a tighter focus on solving practical tasks, as well as meeting the quality requirements set in the contemporary markets, institutions will provide the labor market with experts who are capable of addressing specific problems with due diligence and care. As a result, the opportunities for local markets to grow and expand emerge due to the rise in the number of qualified experts.

Arguably, the oversaturation of the market with specific types of labor force becomes highly possible once the principles of marketization are applied to the operations within an academic institution (Greenhalgh 2015). However, the described phenomenon can be avoided by expanding the scope of educational institutions to the global market and, thus, introducing students to the global economy through the focus on the connection between academic theory and business practice.

Thus, with the rise in the levels of marketization, students and academic institutions redefine the concept of the value of work, imbuing it with a new meaning. On the global scale, a shift from a theoretical perspective on learning has shifted toward the practical one, encouraging students to consider the implications of studying a particular subject (Greenhalgh 2015). Assisting students in locating the connection between theory and practice is critical for the further development of their skills and their ability to manage tasks in their workplace. While the described tendency can be seen as the promotion of analytical thinking in students and the ability to connect theory to practice, it also reduces the value of learning from the idea of personal growth and development to the means of gaining financial and career-related opportunities.

The observed pragmatic trend helps to address the issue of unrealistic expectations that some students may have when considering theory without connecting it to practice. However, the focus on solely the biological pragmatism of learning and the dismissal of the humanistic pragmatism aspects thereof devalues it and deprives students of reaching emotional fulfillment in their academic endeavors (Hersh & Merrow 2015). As a result, education becomes a token process of reaching a particular goal instead of the aspirational path toward personal and professional growth (Kezar 2015). Thus, from the perspective that involves viewing the utility of knowledge as a concept, the marketization of higher education should be seen as an obstacle to students’ academic fulfillment.

Education and Employment

Changes to the philosophy of work are not the only alterations that marketization has brought to the higher education environment. In addition, with the surge of investments into the higher education system, opportunities for providing students with the knowledge and skills that will allow them to explore different job opportunities have emerged. For example, the process of marketization in the UK has helped to examine the factors that affect employment rates among graduates (Cleary 2018). Indeed, with the emphasis on the continuous progress and the shift toward the practical application of the obtained skills, the higher education setting will need to create the training opportunities for learners are likely to emerge.

The introduction of flexibility as one of the key effects of the marketization of higher education also warrants a discussion. Arguably, with the incorporation of economic principles into the contemporary education system, one will provide its stakeholders with a greater number of options concerning the type of education and the quality thereof. Specifically, with the integration of marketing elements into the higher education setting, one can properly address the needs of students better by responding to their demands and interests.

For instance, the introduction of digital tools into the academic process and teaching students to use modern media to attain success in the selected field is critical to assisting learners in gaining competitiveness in the global market (Black 2015). Specifically, the ability to navigate the online environment and use digital tools has become critical for most areas nowadays, which implies that using e-tools is on the list of demands for most job openings nowadays (Rigas & Kuchapski 2016). The introduction of marketing into the educational setting, in turn, will allow promoting of e-learning. With the recent transfer of a vast range of economic processes into the digital setting, the digitalization of education will become possible as well (Black 2015).

Better career perspectives as one of the effects of the observed phenomenon can also be regarded as a positive shift in the higher education environment. With the enhancement of marketization in the higher education setting, one will have to focus on the opportunities that students will have after graduating and during the search for their first job. Since the latter process is often complicated by the lack of experience and the necessity to meet high-quality criteria, students need recommendations concerning marketing themselves in the business setting of their choice (Nixon, Scullion & Hearn 2016). Herein lies the importance of marketization in the higher education context.

One might argue that the significance of the specified issue is disputable since the rates of unemployment have been comparatively low over the past few decades, with an evident sign of decline in 2018 (Ali et al. 2016). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics (2018), there has recently been a downward tendency in the unemployment rates on the state-wide level, with the levels of unemployment dropping from 6.1% in 2014 to 3.9% in 2018. However, the observed phenomenon should not be seen as discouragement from improving the existing education system and creating more opportunities for people to build competencies required for building a career.


The focus on e-learning, in turn, should also be seen as the inevitable outcome of the marketization of higher education. At first glance, the idea of introducing innovative technologies to the academic setting seems an important step in improving the efficacy of education. Indeed, the application of innovative tools allows dispersing information among students more evenly and successfully. Besides, with the help of e-learning, opportunities for online learning have emerged, thus making it possible for a greater number of people to receive higher education. The described change is of particularly high importance for students that live in remote areas and cannot access the desirable academic setting otherwise.

Furthermore, the use of e-learning tools provides students of higher education institutions with more cost-effective options for managing their learning process. The introduction of marketization to the context of the higher education system has caused the digitalization of the academic environment. Thus, the transfer of data including the provision of lectures and study materials, the assessment processes, and the communication between a student and a teacher, in general, have been shifted to the digital environment.

The incorporation of e-learning techniques has allowed using innovative digital tools such as simulations to assist students in training their skills and creating the scenarios that they are most likely to face in the actual business setting (Scullion & Molesworth 2016). As a result, students receive the chance to train the skills that will be vital in their further career development.

When analyzing the impact of marketization on higher education, it should be noted that the phenomenon of the marketization of higher education does not exist in a bubble. Instead, it is influenced by a range of factors, including not only internal but also external ones, and ranging from academic to economic to socio-cultural ones. For instance, with the rise in the amount of support that academic institutions can receive by introducing marketization to the academic environment, the loss of control over the cultural influence that can be observed in the target setting ensues.

For instance, Munro (2018) explains that, in the United Kingdom, the advent of educational marketization coincides with the loss of influence over the process of change within the specified environment. As a result, the process of change, including cultural and academic alterations, is no longer controlled by the state authorities but is, instead, heavily influenced by external forces.

These forces often appear to the attributes of economically superior states and the organizations that belong to them (Tomlinson 2017). Thus, the process of cultural change does not occur naturally but is, instead, reinforced artificially by alien factors such as the promotion of artificial changes to the economic, political, or financial setting of a state (Hogan 2015). The identified alterations are likely to have a significantly negative impact on the overall quality of education, as well as the personal growth of students (McCaig & Taylor 2015).

For instance, by ascribing alien cultural values to them as a result of marketing-related processes as opposed to the ones resulting from cultural diversity, one will create a rather unhealthy scenario in which the loss of identity may occur (Hewitt-Dundas & Roper 2018; Tierney & Lanford 2016). Furthermore, the specified processes affect the quality of education by distracting students and preventing them from focusing on learning (Naidoo & Williams 2014). While marketization does have its positive effects on the modern educational setting, it needs to be controlled tighter to reduce its negative outcomes.

The idea of transforming the academic setting into a marketing-driven one is also quite questionable from an ethical perspective (Tierney & Lanford 2016). Turning students into consumers does not seem to be a sound idea since their priorities will no longer be defined by the need to acquire new skills and improve as learners. Instead, they will view knowledge as a product that they purchase, which is an admissible yet rather narrow line of thinking. The identified approach will limit learners’ opportunities in regard to personal growth, including difficulties with developing scientific inquiry abilities, enthusiasm for learning, and the skills of lifelong learning. Thus, students will transform from inquiry- to consumption-driven agents, which is likely to have a detrimental effect on their learning (Tierney & Lanford 2016).

At this point, it should be borne in mind that the process of digitalization in education and the promotion of e-learning have become mostly irreversible. Furthermore, given the vast array of positive changes that e-learning and digitalization entail, curbing the rates of marketization in its entirety would be unreasonable. By halting the process of marketization in higher education completely, one will deprive numerous learners of the opportunity to gain knowledge despite infrastructural, cultural, and financial constraints that they face.

However, managing the issue of students turning into consumers as opposed to learners should be stopped. For this purpose, the use of cross-cultural opportunities should be considered a necessity. The introduction of cross-cultural tools will allow reducing the negative impact of digitalization by helping students to adjust t the digital setting and learn to use it for academic purposes, thus increasing their skills.

The process of marketization in the higher education context implies that the global market will dictate the changes in the role of learning, as well as the functions that it performs in people’s lives, should be deemed as negative as well. With the integration of market-related principles into the process of learning, one reduces it to the means of increasing one’s economic and financial potential. Dismissing the role of education in allowing one to meet one’s basic needs would be a mistake, yet the academic progress should also reflect the personal and professional growth of an individual.

To understand the weight of the side effects that marketization has on higher education and, particularly, on students that receive it. One should adopt a theoretical framework for analyzing the motivation of learners. Specifically, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs will need to be integrated into the assessment process. The use of Maslow’s framework is justified by the necessity to connect the economic and personal impact of digitalization on students. According to the tiers of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, there are several types of needs that have to be met for an individual to feel content and become fully developed and self-sufficient. These include physiological needs, safety-driven needs, the need for love and belonging, esteem-related needs, and the need for self-actualization.

Applying the proposed theoretical frameworks to the educational setting, one will realize that, ideally, the academic process has to fulfill all of these needs. Particularly, in the context of higher education, one develops the competencies that allow one to be employed and, thus meet one’s basic needs, as well as manage safety-related concerns. However, the higher education setting also assists in increasing one’s esteem by placing an emphasis on the value of learning and developing lifelong learning skills (Pardo et al. 2017).

Similarly, by accepting the values associated with the promotion of education and learning as a tool for personal growth will create a sense of belonging. Specifically, with the acceptance of the values promoted in the higher education system, such as academic integrity, scientific inquiry, and similar concepts, one will satisfy one’s need for belonging, as well as build one’s self-esteem (Beaudoin 2016; Bichsel 2015).

Finally, self-actualization through the accomplishment of academic goals and the focus on lifelong learning will contribute to one’s feeling of fulfillment (Topalogu & Kirar 2017). Therefore, the traditional values by which higher education is driven creates the premises for its stakeholders to be highly motivated and involved.

In turn, the introduction of marketization principles will entail a drastic shift in values, thus making students misconstrue the purpose of their academic progress and compel them to focus solely on its economic outcomes. As a result, when applying Maslow’s framework to the changes in a higher educational setting, one will realize that the means of motivating students for learning, particularly, in the areas of self-actualization and esteem, ware shifted to the opportunity of financial gain and, therefore, are not fulfilled in the academic context. Similarly, the sense of belonging is no longer supported within the marketization frameworks of the higher educational setting, which means that only basic needs will be met once the process of learning is shifted fully to the marketization-related direction.


The process of marketization has affected higher education extensively, mostly due to the increase in the number of funding opportunities as the key positive alteration and the loss of control over essential processes as the primary negative implication of the marketization of higher education. It is necessary to keep in mind that the process of introducing change to the academic area has been multilateral.

Specifically, economic and political factors, as well as multiple cultural influences, have been identified as the ones that defined the marketization of higher education in the modern context. The analysis of the existing sources shows that the process of marketization as it pertains to the academic context is typically viewed as negative, yet it has also had several positive implications on the target environment. Specifically, the introduction of marketization into the academic setting has helped to invest in the professional growth of students, thus causing a drop in unemployment rates due to the availability of highly skilled labor force.

However, not all of the effects that the marketization of higher education has produced can be defined as positive. For instance, local educational authorities see to have lost control over the key processes occurring in the higher educational setting. The observed change has led to the creation of a unique cultural environment in which the processes of cultural appropriation and similar phenomena occur uninhibitedly.

Specifically, the enhancement of marketization has shaped the culture by introducing multicultural elements to it, yet interlocutors of the cross-cultural communication may have a vague understanding of these multicultural elements and their effects. Furthermore, the loss of control over the key processes within an educational institution is likely to cause negative changes in the academic environment, affecting the curriculum and, thus leading to a drop in the quality of education. The identified change, in turn, will most likely affect the rates of students’ engagement and motivation and entail a larger rate of dropouts.

Therefore, the process of marketization of higher education should be regarded not as the necessary evil but as a trend that has been caused by a combination of economic, financial, technological, and cultural factors, and that needs to be controlled within an institution to curb the negative effects thereof. The specified approach needs to be supported with the introduction of interdisciplinary cooperation between experts in education and economy to ensure that economic factors affecting an institution would not lead to its demise and the deterioration of education quality. Thus, the promotion of a positive shift in the observed processes will become possible.

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