Overeducation - A Temporary Problem?

Student thesis: Master Thesis and HD Thesis

  • Sine Højmose Stage
4. term, Sociology, Master (Master Programme)
”Ask me my three main priorities for government and I tell you education, education and education” (Tony Blair, 2007). A mantra, which has spread to all corners of society with in the last decade. Education has become the answer, whether talking about the economic crisis or a country’s capability to create international competitiveness. Education creates innovation; innovation creates growth – a nearly Socratic logic where education finally equals growth. However, more and more critiques have started to emerge towards the unreserved educational trend which Denmark has gone through over the past decade. Today, this discourse characterizes the basic understanding of educational value and has since the mid-19th century caused a constantly increasing tendency towards more and better educational attainments due to the basic conception and perception that education and degrees paves the way towards well payed and acknowledged jobs. But does such a compliance between education and labor market, where education is equivalent to certain strains of the market, and at the same time equal to a decent job, really exist? Or put in other words, has the educational expansion and the level of attained education actually exceeded the demands?

To investigate this particular subject of overeducation, this thesis utilizes mixed methods approach with the aim to acquire a greater understanding of the phenomenon through two fundamental questions:

Does the tendency towards overeducation and mismatch, which many researchers within the educational field point towards, show amongst the Social Scientific Faculty at Aalborg University, and how does the individual graduate perceive its own position in the labor market in relation to his or her education?

The empirical grounds for the thesis includes a combination of both quantitative and qualitative methods. Both methods have intrinsic worth that warrant inclusion, especially in regards to what they can and cannot attain. By combining these two methods, I seek to gain:
i. A structural understanding of the overall phenomenon through a quantitative analysis amongst the Social Scientific Faculty at Aalborg University
ii. An individual understanding from personal telephonic interviews with seven graduates from this exact faculty in the means of creating an understanding on the value of education in relation to the individual positioning in the labor market.

The theoretical aspect of the thesis primarily exploits Randall Collins' understanding of education presented in his book The Credential Society and uses, in the aim of acquiring a deeper theoretical understanding, to some extend Goldthorpe's theory on relative risk aversion. However, despite the use of class theorists, the thesis will not evolve around the concept of class relations or distinctions, which both Collins and Goldthorpe might advocate. Instead, the theoretical point of view seeks to explain and understand overeducation through educational credentials.
In my analysis of existing and gathered empirical data, I have identified that overeducation cannot be viewed as a static phenomenon, as much of the current empirical work on the topic does. Instead, over-education should be viewed upon as an individual process through a continuously changing work life sphere, which is affected by the dynamics of the market and the individual capacity of the employing company. Overeducation as a phenomenon must be approached neither as an isolated nor static matter.

Publication dateAug 2015
Number of pages100
ID: 216972920