In pursuit of scarcity: transnational students, ‘employability’, and the MBA
Johanna L Waters
‘Credential inflation’ is perhaps one of the more contentious consequences of the recent expansion of higher education. Concerns over the effects of credential inflation have spawned a number of debates around concepts of ‘employability’ and postgraduate learning. In the contemporary knowledge-based economy, it is argued, the employability of young graduates is increasingly dependent upon their ability to maintain ‘positional advantage’ in a labour market characterised by ‘boundaryless careers’. I examine these debates in the context of East Asia. Here, young people’s positional advantage is sought, firstly, through the acquisition of an international first degree, obtained at an overseas institution. However, with more and more middle-class students going abroad for their education before returning to seek work, the ‘overseas degree’ is also increasingly subject to devaluation through credential inflation. I highlight the significance of postgraduate education and particularly the Masters of Business Administration (MBA) for young, overseas-educated, graduates in Hong Kong. I argue that the MBA is now seen as a vital supplement to an overseas undergraduate education and as part of an extended temporal and spatial process of study, in the face of prevalent discourses of ‘employability’, individual responsibility, and the need for the continual upgrading of skills.
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