Continuing Professional Development : accountability, autonomy, efficiency and equity in five professions

Hywel Thomas

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    1 Citation (Scopus)


    We examine the influence of neo-liberalism in re-shaping the accountability of five professional groups (accountants, solicitors, social workers, nurses and doctors) and its consequence for their CPD policies. Documentary analysis and Quarterly Labour Force Survey data (n=31,260) from the 1990s to the present are integrated in a comparative method which examines whether changes are specific to a profession or represent more general patterns.

    Using complementary theories from neo-liberal economics and the sociology of professionalism, we show how regulatory oversight has altered accountabilities. Its consequences for the autonomy of professions and individuals in determining CPD requirements differ amongst the five groups, mediated by status, public concern, regulator activism and, possibly, alignment with the financial sector. Efficiency and equity are analysed using theories of professional learning and human capital. Wider economic conditions influence the incidence of CPD with recent years showing declining participation; we also show changes in ‘what counts’ as CPD and its greater integration with performance management. Findings on selected equity criteria are also reported. Some regulators are becoming more specific about the content of CPD, while others are defining what constitutes good practice and requiring its use in planning CPD. Greater attention is being given to issues of ethics and probity.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)161-186
    JournalBritish Journal of Educational Studies
    Issue number2
    Early online date22 Apr 2013
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


    • continuing professional development
    • training incidence
    • accountability
    • efficiency
    • five professions


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