Personal Development Planning (PDP) has become a central feature of student activity across the higher education sector. There is now an awareness that in a globalised education and workplace market students will need to be more competitive in developing and marketing their academic and personal skills and attributes. In Europe much of this is being driven by the Bologna Process and Lisbon Agenda in order to modernize universities and student employability. However, this inner directed process has generated a discourse of voluntarism minimizing engagement with wider political, social and economic issues that impact upon programmes of study and associated career opportunities. This paper argues that focus on the PDP, and in particular the use of electronic portfolios and progress files, can lead to an instrumental form of learning that is focused on process rather than genuine intellectual and personal growth. Undergraduate education is now characterized in terms of the development of graduate attributes as marketable personal characteristics related to the knowledge economy. However, the rhetoric of widening participation, choice and the marketisation of higher education is argued to have endangered a discourse of the ‘personal’ and that produces an ideological and paradoxical effect of creating an inner-directed focus in the face of a globalised world.
Senior Lecturer, Sociology, School of Social & Health Sciences, University of Abertay Dundee, Dundee, Scotland, UK
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