Transition or Translation?: Thinking Through Media and Cultural Studies Students’ Experiences after Graduation

Nicole Matthews


This article uses Kevin Robins and Frank Webster’s notion of ‘instrumental progressivism’ as a way of understanding the tensions between discipline-based academic staff and educational policy makers and developers within universities.  Robins and Webster argue that contemporary educational orthodoxies bring together two disparate philosophies: progressive understandings of education as student-centred and lifelong and the view that higher education should serve the economy.  While these writers see instrumental progressivism as a symptom of an ailing university system, this article argues that cultural studies as an interdiscipline with historical ties to progressivism cannot entirely step aside from the logic of these reforms.  The article interrogates Robins and Webster’s argument drawing on two small-scale qualitative research projects which traced the experiences of graduates from media and cultural studies programs, one in the UK and one in Australia.  While there are formidable political problems with progressivism and real challenges in smoothing educational transitions, the article argues that cultural studies programs can help students translate the categories, research questions, and disciplinary concentrations of their field into the languages and taxonomies of the work place.


Higher education; careers; graduates; transition; educational reform; educational development

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