Hordern, James (2012) Higher Education and Higher Skills: Exploring the Policy Implementation Process. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

The argument made by the Leitch report and subsequent government policy documents is that an improved supply of skills is central to national economic progress in the face of increasing competition amongst nation states for business investment. Over the period 2005-9 higher education institutions in England were encouraged by government departments and HEFCE to engage with an emerging higher skills policy, and commit to building their capacity to develop and deliver workforce development provision in collaboration with employers and Sector Skills Councils. This thesis explores the implementation of this policy with the aim of developing an analytical framework that can be used to explain processes of implementation in this specific policy environment, at the interface of ‘skills’ and ‘higher education’. The approach to implementation recognises the importance of interpreting the structural character of the policy environment, the influence of the prevailing norms of the higher education sector, and the manner in which processes at the ‘street level’ interpret and adapt policy to institutional context. The analytical process takes account of the insights of sociological institutionalism, Matland’s ambiguity-conflict model and the focus on belief and coalition formation in the Advocacy Coalition Framework, and makes use of a range of documentary and interview material. The approach is deliberately sceptical about the possibility of the development of an overarching implementation model, and instead focuses on the characterisation of key factors that are likely to influence the implementation process and outcomes in this specific policy environment. To that end, the analysis produced can find use as an insight into the process of policy implementation in higher education in the U.K., and provide an indication of how similar policies may be re(formed) in future contexts.

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