Employability, managerialism, and performativity in higher education: a relational perspective

Senia Kalfa*, Lucy Taksa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


This article combines Bourdieu’s concepts of field, habitus and cultural capital with Lyotard’s account of performativity to construct a three-tiered framework in order to explore how managerialism has affected the academic habitus. Specifically, this article examines the adoption of group assignments as a means of developing teamwork skills in one Australian case study organisation. On a macrolevel, by viewing the employability imperative as one manifestation of managerialism in the higher education field, we argue that managerialism has created a performative culture in the case study organisation evidenced by an increasing emphasis on performance indicators. On a mesolevel, by examining how academics use group assessments to respond to demands made by governments and employers for ‘employable graduates’, we highlight the continuity of academic habitus. Finally, on a microlevel by drawing on alumni reflections regarding their experiences of group assessments at university, we are able to shed some light on their evaluation of this pedagogical tool.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)687-699
Number of pages13
JournalHigher Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


  • Employability
  • Higher education
  • Managerialism
  • Performativity
  • Teamwork


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