Analysing micro-credentials in higher education: a Bernsteinian analysis
This paper critiques the emergence of micro-credentials in higher education. It argues that micro-credentials build on the discourse of employability skills and 21st century skills within human capital theory, and that they increase the potential of human capital theory to ‘discipline’ the HE curriculum to align it more closely with putative labour market requirements. The paper is situated within the social realist school in the sociology of education, and it draws primarily on the sociology of Basil Bernstein to develop this critique, while also drawing on the Continental Didaktik tradition. It analyses the nature of the person envisaged in curriculum, the homo economicus of human capital theory. This self is a market self who uses micro-credentials to invest in this or that set of skills in anticipating labour market requirements. The paper uses a range of Bernstein’s concepts to analyse the links between what is to be taught, to whom is it taught, and how is it taught in micro-credentials. It focuses on the principle of recontextualization which comprises instructional and regulative discourses, to examine the ways in which notions of the person and human motivation are reshaping relations of classification and framing in HE curriculum.