Literature review

It is rarely in dispute that Higher Education (HE) is one of, if not the main driver towards a Knowledge Based Economy (KBE); in turn one of the central goals of most developed countries around the globe. (Castells, 1994). Over the past few decades however the expansion of HE in the UK has not been matched by an equal expansion of KBE jobs as a proportion of the overall jobs market (Mason, 2002). One result of this disparity is that the proportion of underutilised graduates has continued to grow. One study (Keep and Mayhew, 2004) shows that as many as 5/6ths of all jobs that become available in the UK are to backfill positions that did not previously require the worker to have a HE qualification. 

Furthermore, market demand for skilled graduate work has not increased to match the current level of supply which has led many graduate employers to focus more heavily on additional personal characteristics outside of an applicant’s academic attainment (Tomlinson, 2008). Whilst most employers view their selection processes as detached and objective (Hinchcliffe and Jolly, 2011), in practice the traits that they show preference for broadly align with social class indicators that tend to disadvantage some graduates over others (Brown, 2000). On top of this, it appears that employers looking to fast-track graduates into management positions are increasingly drawing graduates from a narrow field of select institutions (Tomlinson, 2008), further cementing socioeconomic disparities within the graduate population. 

(Keep and Mayhew, 2004) argue that one of the main outcomes of this new norm is that without a sufficient supply of KBE jobs, our surplus graduate output has had to move into less knowledge intensive sectors in order to find work. (Wolf, 2003) adds that this flooding of non-traditional graduate markets is likely to create a feedback loop pushing more and more young people into Higher Education for fear of being left behind.

Another cause for concern is that in the age of HE massification, periods of prolonged under-employment are becoming increasingly common for young graduates. This is worrying as research has shown that early career underemployment can have long-lasting effects on a graduate’s eventual career prospects. (Elias & McKnight, 1999; Green et al., 2002). 

Without fundamental structural change it seems inevitable that the current system will continue to produce an oversupply of overqualified and underutilised graduate workers. Unfortunately nothing looks set to change any time soon. Academics and politicians calling for such change remain fringe voices, easily drowned out by the sound of  money. In our current status quo there is little incentive for HE institutions to push for radical change; business as usual.

In the face of such compounding problems it would appear that graduates need to find new, innovative ways to improve their quality of life. Working cooperatively it is my belief that we can resist the dominant narratives that push individualism as the norm and can instead work together to feed our shared desire for knowledge, build a framework for continued personal development and to better leverage the communal knowledge that we hold as graduates.

This idea is what the CurioCity Collective has been created in response to. It is an experiment; an attempt to find a new way for graduates and other interested adults in Bristol to pool their resources and work together to achieve shared goals. A means of supporting each other & a way to build a sense of community and purpose for young graduates that feel let down and academically isolated in the years after they leave education. 


Mason, G., 2002. High Skills Utilisation Under Mass Higher Education: Graduate employment in service industries in Britain. Journal of Education and Work, 15(4), pp.427-456.

Keep, E. and Mayhew, K., 2004. The Economic and Distributional Implications of Current Policies on Higher Education. Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 20(2), pp.298-314.

Tomlinson, M., 2008. ‘The degree is not enough’: students’ perceptions of the role of higher education credentials for graduate work and employability. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 29(1), pp.49-61.

Elias, Peter, and Abigail McKnight. “Skill Measurement in Official Statistics: Recent Developments in the UK and the Rest of Europe.” Oxford Economic Papers, vol. 53, no. 3, 2001, pp. 508–540. 

Castells, M., 2014. Technopoles of the World. Routledge.

Hinchliffe, G. and Jolly, A., 2011. Graduate identity and employability. British Educational Research Journal, 37(4), pp.563-584.

Brown, P., 2000. The Globalisation of Positional Competition?. Sociology, 34(4), pp.633-653.

Wolf, A., 2003. Does Education Matter?, London, Penguin.

Brown, P. and Hesketh, A., 2005. The mismanagement of talent. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

Graff, H.J., 2015, Undisciplining Knowledge : Interdisciplinarity in the Twentieth Century, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central.

Brassler, M. , & Dettmers, J. (2017). How to Enhance Interdisciplinary Competence—Interdisciplinary Problem-Based Learning versus Interdisciplinary Project-Based Learning. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning, 11(2).

Pritchard, A, & Woollard, J 2010, Psychology for the Classroom: Constructivism and Social Learning, Taylor & Francis Group, Florence. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central.Swanson, G. and Bell, D., 1974. The Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting. Social Forces, 53(2), p.364.

Schultz, Theodore W. “Investment in Human Capital.” The American Economic Review, vol. 51, no. 1, 1961, pp. 1–17.

Becker, Gary S. “Nobel Lecture: The Economic Way of Looking at Behavior.” Journal of Political Economy, vol. 101, no. 3, 1993, pp. 385–409. 

Ashton, David and Francis Green. (1996). Education, Training and the Global Economy. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar..” 

Collins, R., 1979. The credential society: An historical sociology of education and stratification. Columbia University Press.

Hirsch, F., 2005. Social limits to growth. London: Taylor & Francis e-Library.

Brown, P., 2000. The Globalisation of Positional Competition?. Sociology, 34(4), pp.633-653.

Battu, H., Belfield, C. R. and Sloane, P. J. (2000) ‘How Well Can We Measure Graduate Over- Education and Its Effects?’, National Institute Economic Review, 171(1), pp. 82–93.

Brynin, M. (2002) ‘Overqualification in Employment’, Work, Employment and Society, 16(4), pp. 637–654.

Keep, Ewart, and Mayhew. “The economic and distributional implications of current policies on higher education.” Oxford Review of Economic Policy, vol. 20, no. 2, 2004, pp. 298–314. 

Moreau, M. and Leathwood, C., 2006. Balancing paid work and studies: working (-class) students in higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 31(1), pp.23-42.

Reay, D., Davies, J., David, M. and Ball, S., 2001. Choices of Degree or Degrees of Choice? Class, `Race’ and the Higher Education Choice Process. Sociology, 35(4), pp.855-874.

Lydall, H. and Thurow, L., 1977. Generating Inequality. The Economic Journal, 87(345), p.162.

Hodkinson, P., Sparkes, A. and Hodkinson, H., 2012. Triumphs and tears: Young people, markets and the transition from school to work. London: Routledge.

Naidoo, Rajani. “Repositioning Higher Education as a Global Commodity: Opportunities and Challenges for Future Sociology of Education Work.” British Journal of Sociology of Education, vol. 24, no. 2, 2003, pp. 249–259. 

Beck, John. “Education and the Middle Classes: Against Reductionism in Educational Theory and Research.” British Journal of Educational Studies, vol. 55, no. 1, 2007, pp. 37–55. 

Scott, P., 1995. The Meanings of mass higher education. Buckingham: The Society for Research into Higher Education.

Leathwood, C. and O’Connell, P., 2003. ‘It’s a struggle’: the construction of the ‘new student’ in higher education. Journal of Education Policy, 18(6), pp.597-615.

Archer, L. and Hutchings, M., 2000. ‘Bettering Yourself’? Discourses of risk, cost and benefit in ethnically diverse, young working-class non-participants’ constructions of higher education. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 21(4), pp.555-574.