Running up a downwards escalator…..

Patrick Ainley and Martin Allen

Paper to British Sociology Association  Youth Study Group Seminar  November 4th

Widening participation to higher education has approached New Labour’s target of 50% of 18-30s (for women at least). Presented as a professionalisation of the proletariat, in reality it represents a disguised proletarianisation of the professions – for which HE supposedly prepares its graduates – with many reduced to para-professions at best. Education as a whole therefore faces a credibility crunch; however, many have nowhere else to go since without qualifications they face falling into the so-called ‘underclass.’

‘Between the snobs and the yobs’, the children of the new working-middle class are running up a down-escalator of devalued qualifications. Only intensifying national hysteria about education, the Coalition’s reception of Browne’s Review restricts HE entry to those who can afford tripled fees, while relegating those who cannot to ‘Apprenticeships Without Jobs’ (cf. Finn 1987) in FE and private providers. With reference to Allen and Ainley (2011), this paper speculates as to the likely outcome of this generational crisis.

The original abstract for this paper was submitted on 5th August. This was the day after Mark Duggan was shot by police in Tottenham, leading to a week of riots in the capital and elsewhere in England.  While the exact causes and consequences still have to be determined, the riots surely represent the clearest example yet of the emerging new (English) social formation, which will be the subject of this paper.


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