An unfinished experiment: ambiguity and conflict in the implementation of higher skills policy

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The higher skills policy of the UK New Labour Government emerged from the recommendations of the Leitch Review of Skills, and was implemented in England between 2007 and 2010. The policy aimed to encourage higher education (HE) institutions to engage with employers and employer representative bodies to design and deliver HE provision that reflected the needs of employers. Using key policy documents and evidence submitted to a select committee inquiry, aspects of ambiguity and conflict in the implementation of this policy are explored. This focuses on three specific areas where disagreements amongst parties, or with government, were observed, and ambiguities of policy means and objectives. Although conflict amongst interested parties is evident, this was not extensive within the HE sector as the policy was not seen as relevant to all institutions. The demonstrable ambiguity enables the policy to be absorbed and made appropriate to the norms and culture of the HE sector. The experimental structure of the policy, while always ambiguous, lost its rationale with the change of UK government in 2010.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)248-265
Number of pages18
JournalResearch Papers in Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2015


  • ambiguity
  • conflict
  • higher skills
  • implementation
  • policy experiment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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