Credentialism and the Diploma Disease

21jul99a: Webmaster: Sponsor your MP's education.

Earlier this year, faxfn commissioned a new mission statement
faxfn has the motto 'listening to experience'. Most of the contributors are real people with knowledge and experience. What they say challenges the myths and mistakes of the academics and politicians.

With the credentialist argument, it is no so much 'real people' but academics that are challenging the myths and mistakes. (Or should this be the cynicism and the ignorance?). In his book "The Diploma Disease: education, qualifications and development", Ronald Dore wrote in 1976
Everywhere, in Britain as in India, in Russia as in Venezuela, schooling is more often qualification-earning than it was in 1920, or even in 1950. And more qualification-earning is mere qualification-earning - ritualistic, tedious, suffused with anxiety and boredom, destructive of curiosity and imagination; in short, anti-educational.

Perhaps this section will show that there are some academics that are not cynical and there are some politicians that are not ignorant. But the credentialist argument must be answered.

In the interests of dispelling any lingering ignorance, we are asking our readers to sponsor an MP and buy them a copy. It has been reported to faxfn that one of the members of the Education and Employment Select Committee has not even heard of the Diploma Disease. So we will be sending a copy to all of the members of the committee and asking them for their views. We will update the table below as the replies rush in.

MPHeard of DD before?Any views expressed?
Atherton, Ms. Candy  
Atkins, Charlotte  
Brady, Mr. Graham  
Cooper, Yvette  
Davey, Valerie  
Flint, Caroline  
Foster, Mr. Derek  
Hayes, Mr. John  
Healey, Mr. John  
Keetch, Mr. Paul  
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor  
Mallaber, Judy  
Marsden, Mr. Gordon  
Rammell, Mr. Bill  
St. Aubyn, Mr. Nick  
Wicks, Mr. Malcolm  
Willis, Mr. Phil  

(Replies and other comments can be sent to info@faxfn.org.)

Another short quote will help introduce this topic (This is relevant to the section on NVQs A pity about the NVQs which starts with a piece by Mike Matheson, an ex-NUPE official)
...Large numbers of civil servants devoted their time to publicising and marketing NVQs, and encouraging their use by industry. Doubts about the underlying argument, and the likelyhood that employers would indeed change their training practices wholesale, were pushed aside (as were increasingly vocal criticisms of the quality of the awards themselves.) The reforms slid into something reminiscent of the 'Cargo Cults' of Polynesia. Just as worshipping replicas of planes was thought, by cult adherents, to bring the showering of gifts from the sky, so it became an article of faith that awarding enough vocational certificates would somehow transform the nature of the UK economy.

- Alison Wolf (p39 "Growth stocks and lemons: Diplomas in the English market-place", Assessment in Education: principles, policies and practice. Voume 4 Number 1 January 1997, Carfax)
This was a special issue of Assessment in Education, "The Diploma Disease Twenty Years On". An excellent buy.

Faxfn will be renewing efforts to get politicians to talk more frankly on this subject. We know some politicians are not totally ignorant of the issues.

(Another related section is Exams And Qualifications)

22jul99: Andy Eadie (D.Cred): More credentials?

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28jul99: Webmaster: No FT. No BBC. No comment.

Both the FT (www.globalarchive.ft.com/search) and the BBC (www.news.bbc.co.uk) have extensive websites with excellent search facilities. (The FT site has a special offer for registered users until 23rd August).

Try searching for "diploma disease" or "credentialism". Zilch.

But why? If YOU know, let US know.

24aug99: Found on the Web: More qualifications for the same job

(From http://cep.lse.ac.uk/papers/discussion/dp0330.html)

Qualifications and the Labour Market in Britain: 1984-94 Skill Biased Change in the Demand for Labour or Credentialism ?

P.Robinson and M.Manacorda

"...implying that the increased holding of qualifications by each successive age group simply results in employers of each occupation upping their educational requirements as could be suggested by the credentialist hypothesis. "

"These are stark conclusions, suggesting that the outputs of the education and training system in Britain over the period 1984-94 did not merely keep pace with labour market changes, but allowed employers to hire more qualified people for what in the data look like essentially the same jobs."

Discussion Papers are available at a charge of GBP5.00 each... Centre for Economic Performance, LSE, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE.