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This thing called marketisation

Lowrie, A and Hemsley-Brown, Jane (2011) This thing called marketisation Journal of Marketing Management, 27 (11-12). pp. 1081-1086.

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Marketing and marketisation are not the same. However, it is not a simple task to disentangle one from the other. At one end of the distribution of meaning, marketing may be taken to be about the provision of information to help people make decisions, while at the other end of this distribution, marketisation challenges stakeholders with radical change encompassing issues of power, funding, labour, markets, and complexity. Nor is this a comprehensive list (see, e.g., Hemsley-Brown & Oplatka, 2006). Indeed, the idea of a definitive list is misleading. Meanings and lists tend to chop and change according to the particular perspective slicing the dialogue.While it is difficult to get an intellectual handle on what is happening with regard to marketing higher education – never mind what to do about it – the reader might like to think that that is rather the point: the complexity keeps the stakeholder guessing at what is difficult, if not impossible, to predict, and so this keeps us on our academic toes. Nevertheless, there are three very important characteristics evident in the literature to describe the situation and help us to develop an intellectual understanding of marketisation: (1) higher education is characterised by plurality; (2) it is competitive and likely to get even more competitive; and (3) it is rife with contestation. More than anything else in our research into marketing and the marketisation of higher education, we need analytical concepts to deal with these highly prominent yet not all-embracing characteristics. As the complexity and diversity of the literature in the subject area suggests, this is not going to come from a single disciplinary source. With regard to these characteristics, it is not simply a question of a variety of institutions of higher education competing, but these varied institutions are occupied by academics with competing theories. So institutional plurality and intellectual plurality add to the competitive fuel. Burning themes arising from these characteristics set within academic contestation are: increasing complexity, the rise of consumerism, rankings, the promotion of relevance, and identity. With regard to the second characteristic, it is irrelevant whether you like or approve or not; competition will define higher education and its being in the world and where that being is placed. Higher education’s identity and how stakeholders identify with it will alter radically. Indeed, it is already inaccurate to speak of the identity of higher education rather than identities. In consideration of the third set of characteristics, none of these goes unchallenged. Consensus is a long way off. The way forward is paved with many possibilities and potential directions. The plurality and competitive characteristics have multiple implications that work their way through how we approach marketing for higher education, understand it, and then deal with it. The articles in this special issue are just some of the research outcomes that link the major themes emanating from the characteristics. It would be impossible, of course, to cover all these themes in one special issue. Nevertheless,the articles in this special edition of the Journal of Marketing Management illustrate how marketing for higher education research is intricately bound up with (a) the characteristics and (b) the themes, and (c) how researchers break these themes down into manageable research topics such as marketing strategy, services marketing, consumer behaviour, and so on.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > Surrey Business School
Authors :
Lowrie, A
Date : 10 October 2011
DOI : 10.1080/0267257X.2011.614733
Additional Information : This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in Journal of Marketing Management (2011), 27(11-12), pp. 1081-1086. © 2011 Westburn Publishers Ltd., available online at:
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 21 Sep 2012 14:07
Last Modified : 16 Jan 2019 16:38

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