Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (College of Education)

Schools and Centres


First Supervisor

Boris Handal

Second Supervisor

Kevin Watson


The purpose of this study was to observe the perspectives of stakeholders on Vocational Education and Training (VET) policy in Australia. The intention was to explore the interplay of policy implementation, stakeholder perspectives on policy and VET activities, and theoretical notions of power relations, governmentality and capital, utilising frameworks by Foucault and Bourdieu. The problem, as it was established in literature review, is the potential influence of policy relations, governmentality and capital on VET activities and VET policy formation and implementation. The outcome was to better understand stakeholder perspectives of VET and to add a facet of knowledge to the theoretical frameworks.

Michel Foucault provides a platform from which power relations and governmentality can be observed, given a particular situation, a ‘present’ in which to conduct such an observation. Further, there is a potential nexus between power relations, governmentality and the forms of capital, established by Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu. By establishing the historical conditions of Vocational Education and Training (VET) in Australia, it is possible to know how we arrived at a point in time, a ‘present’. A genealogical literature review focused on discontinuity, as opposed to a timeline of events, afforded development of such knowledge. From this point, it was feasible to conduct research into the present conditions. Hence, this study attempted to construct an understanding of VET stakeholder perspectives in and around 2015. It did so by exploring empirical issues within VET policy and activities, generating two sets of findings: first, a response to the empirical issues and second, an illustration of theoretical concepts.

Operationally, the multiple case study is defined by stakeholder groups, characterised by an explanatory sequential design of two phases. A complex study, data collection and analysis focused on 5 domains, including core VET objectives, work placement, apprenticeship, teacher qualifications and employability (generic) skills, for which there are a number of findings. The first quantitative phase illustrates case perspectives utilising a cross-case survey, analysed using statistical methods with measures of significance. Sample size for Phase 1 was n = 281. These were used to define questions for qualitative interviews in Phase 2, where n = 13. They were also summarised for their contribution to findings and theoretical discussion. Analysis in Phase 2, namely thematic synthesis, explored and developed themes of empirical inquiry and findings, adding detail to the quantitative findings. Moreover, it provided a response to the theoretical frameworks.

Macro findings of empirical issues showed an inflated view of VET from the perspective of some stakeholders. Industry particularly had a deflated view, which shone through in both phases. In the context of power relations, there were well defined systems of differentiation, objectives, means of power relations being brought into play, forms of institutionalisation and rationalisations illustrated. The complexities of governmentality were described in relation to policy and stakeholder perspectives, which arose from the data. Further, capital formation was explored in light of empirical findings and relations to power drawn.

The implications of the study for policy are how related decisions have influenced capital outcomes for students and stakeholders, such as contestable markets and pathways from VET to tertiary study, investment of industry into VET, differences between stakeholders for needs and expectations of work placement, and the effect of policy implementation on quality training. Teacher qualifications were also implicated as a complex area of need, especially for upgrades and maintenance. In the context of power relations, there is a greater understanding of how stakeholder perspectives influence implementation of policy and their interactions between and within the sectors of education and industry. This may provide insight into how policy can be formed to better engage stakeholders. Further, it describes the ways capital formation is impacted by power relations. Finally, there is knowledge of how stakeholders respond to issues related to governmentality, and the decisions made to refuse infliction of governance.

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