An exploration of the UK carer world

8  The McDonaldisation of universities                                              Home page 

How will A New University for Hereford  avoid the production of unrecyclable cardboard graduates?

The McDonaldization of Higher Education?: Notes on the UK Experience

1  Introduction

2  Efficiency - the academic production line

3  Calculability

4  Predictability

5  Increased control 

6  Caveat

7  The duty of universities

8  The logical progression from this page 

1  Introduction


The U.S. sociologist George Ritzer . . . puts forward the theory of an ever more instrumentally rationalized labour process mirrored in an equally instrumentalized sphere of consumer ‘choices’ essentially already made, so that standardization and ‘efficiency’ become the unifying functional paradigm for society as a whole.


Ritzer . .  identifies four essential aspects of ‘McDonaldization’: efficiency, calculability, predictability, and increased control through the replacement of human labor with technology.

2  Efficiency - the academic production line

‘Efficiency’ can be seen twofold: as the restructuring of the university toward market-defined goals of ‘value’ - both in terms of government funding, and to the student ‘stakeholder’, and of course in terms of the efficient ‘production line’ of graduates to meet . . . the ‘challenges’ of globalization. 

3  Calculability


Such a process of instrumental rationality reduces university education and research to a ‘calculable’ formula of ‘knowledge production’ or . . . ‘knowledge transfer’, as if thought were itself merely a quantifiable known-sum to be ‘transferred’ and managed accordingly. 


The rationalization of teaching has given birth to endless numbers of study modules in order to to serve straightforwardly economic ends (later) and to reduce thought merely to a quantifiable known-sum (QKS).  This was formerly termed mug-and-jug  teaching in the pre-module era.


Now, as long as sufficient packages of QKS appear in essays, theses and exam papers, the writers achieve their goal. Perhaps such writers are undergraduates within Complementary medicine courses in universities.  Perhaps they are within the dubious degree courses discussed under Britain’s great university rip-off.  Perhaps they are everywhere. . . .


Many of the poorest students may currently be racking up debts to get a degree in something fairly trivial - media studies? - at one of the newer universities, set up in response to Blair's "Alice in Wonderland" idea that all must have prizes. 

source       More like Alice in Herefordshire.  More media studies

You'll have the opportunity to build skill sets and connections that take you directly into a thriving South Coast media network, with carefully shaped options that give you both a sound theoretical framework and practical skills for whatever media role suits your ambitions.


4  Predictability

The ‘predictability’ of the ‘McDonaldization’ process at work in UK higher education, can be seen in the bureaucratic rationalization of teaching and research to serve straightforwardly economic ends. This can be observed in everything from the squeeze on research funding and subject areas, and the need to attract corporate investment, to the emphasis on ‘transferable skills’ to be acquired by students by the end of their studies.


5  Increased control 


. .  we can observe this process of instrumental planning and rationalization in the increasing loss of academic autonomy and bureaucratic ‘performance assessment’, which is of course directly linked to an institution’s success in churning out graduates ready and willing for the demands of the so-called ‘knowledge economy.’ 

source  Wiki   more


An institution’s success in churning out graduates  . . .


is influenced by how many students start its courses.  It's in the interest of universities to play the numbers game.  Some may recruit a whole generation . . . conned into thinking that the only way to achieve success in life is to attend 'uni' in order for the appropriate boxes to be ticked.


"There are groups of scholars all over the country who would not make a decision about the shape of a leaf or the derivation of a word without painstakingly assembling the evidence and yet are quite content to make decisions about admissions policy, size of universities, staff/student ratios, content of courses and similar issues, based on dubious assumptions, scrappy data and mere hunch."

Intro to Chapter 1 here



I work at a prominent higher education institution, and can tell you that very poor decisions have been made with regards to the business management side of running universities, that's why they are struggling with cuts. 

Universities appear to forget that severe economic recessions do happen, and are not in a position to deal with them, . . . 


6  Caveat

. . . by employing Ritzer’s theory in this specific context it should be made clear that this does not imply unqualified support for his thesis, merely that it can be critically employed in an understanding of the processes at work in UK higher education, and by definition society as a whole.

7  The duty of universities


it is the duty of universities to turn out graduates equipped with the desire and willingness to fight their way to the front of the marathon rat race of survival that is late capitalism. To phrase this in perhaps bolder terms . . . there will also remain a sufficiently compliant, but still more importantly ‘motivated’ pool of ‘knowledge’ workers, aware of the shortage of worthwhile jobs, and prepared to accept the diminishing returns they face competing for them.



The shortage of worthwhile jobs takes us back to where we came in:

What we really need are more 'doers' and less frustrated academics, a lot of whom go on to jobs which have nothing to do with the degree they have obtained.

source - E here.


I am convinced that only a third of the young people who attend university should do so and that Tony Blair's discredited mantra 'Education, Education, Education' has been a recipe for failure, resulting in a whole generation being conned into thinking that the only way to achieve success in life is to attend 'uni'.  See 5.2.1

source C  here


we are over-burdened with "academics" who leave "uni" only to become disenchanted, indebted, and unfulfilled.

source I here.  more  


only to become disenchanted, indebted, and unfulfilled and unemployed

The lowest five institutions are listed showing the % of graduates who were unemployed in July 2013:

   London South Bank  - 23% 

   University of East London - 21%

   University of Bolton - 19%

   Middlesex University - 18%

   London Metropolitan University - 17%.

edited version of what you read at source 


The logical progression from this page is to here



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                                                   The logical progression from this page is to here

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