Tertiary education and social capital in Victoria: The effects of the new economy courses in Business and IT


The primary aim of the research project was to gain an understanding of the contribution of business and IT courses (described as 'new economy' courses) in Victorian tertiary institutions, to social capital. By social capital is meant the social relationships which individuals can leverage to access opportunities and support.  Collectively it means the collaborative networks that underpin economic innovation and sustainable community. 

In general the project found that the effects of the study period on networking behaviour were slight although as expected IT students increased their electronic networking activities. Kinship and locality networks, networking via the workplace (more than three quarters of all students in the survey sample worked during semester) and some interest group/ affinity networks such as sporting clubs and religious institutions, appeared to have much more effects in creating and sustaining social capital than the tertiary education experience.

TAFE students had lower levels of social capital behaviour and were less affected by tertiary education than university students. The Business and IT students had weaker and less extensive networks and lower levels of trust than students from the other disciplines. This appeared linked to the fact that the Business and IT students were more likely to come from first generation higher education families that typically network less extensively with other tertiary education families, pointing to the continuing impact of social origin on the extent of value obtained in tertiary education, and the tendency of networks to be socially exclusive as well as inclusive.

Simon Marginson and Leesa Wheelahan (Griffith)
Australian Research Council Linkage Grant