Faulconbridge, James R. and Hall, Sarah (2009) Educating professionals and professional education in a geographical context. Geography Compass, 3 (1). pp. 171-189. ISSN 1749-8198
Economic geography has a well-established tradition of studying a range of professional service firms (PSFs) including law, advertising, architecture, accountancy, management consultancy and banking. Within this literature, considerable attention has been paid to the role of highly skilled professionals who use their expertise to deliver bespoke, knowledge-rich products to a range of corporate clients. However, comparatively little attention has been paid to the role of professional education, offered by institutions such as law schools, university business schools and professional associations in preparing future employees for their careers in PSFs. This forms part of a broader silence within economic geography on the role of different forms of education in the legitimisation and emergence of powerful professional industries and practices. In this paper we to begin to address this lacuna by showing how geographers’ understanding of professional industries and firms can be enhanced by integrating studies from the sociology of the professions, research into the so-called ‘knowledge-based economy’ more generally and studies of the spatial heterogeneity of professional practice that all focus specifically upon the socializing and legitimating influence of educational institutions and practices. Two arguments run throughout the paper. First, we identify the different roles played by professional education in relation to PSFs, ranging from specialist, profession specific knowledge transfer to inculcating students with a broader sense of the profession as a whole. Second, we consider how the relationship between professional education and PSFs varies both geographically and between different professions. Combined we suggest that economic geography can learn a lot about the spatial peculiarities of 1 different professions from such studies, something that is in need of significant empirically-grounded research.
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