Entrepreneurial Education

The Role of Internships in Higher Education in North America

  • Daniel Cockayne Department of Geography and Environmental Management, University of Waterloo
Keywords: coop, critical geography of education, higher education, internships, universities


The neoliberalization of education in North America is a widely discussed topic within and outside of geography. Though much research has been undertaken on, for example, the rise of employability and other metrics in higher education, and some research has examined internships, little critical literature has examined the role of cooperative (coop) education programs: a specific kind of internship-based undergraduate program in which students alternate between school and paid work terms throughout their degrees. I explore these themes through an analysis of interviews with students who are enrolled in or recently completed coop degrees at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. I examine coop, a key element of the neoliberalization of education in North America, to argue (1) that coop degree programs are invested in the production of mobile and flexible subjects convenient to an increasingly globalized labor market and (2) that students display critical ambivalence toward coop as resistant to it while also finding value in it in general terms. This perceived value should be contextualized alongside the broader structural forces that students are faced with that include rising tuition fees, dwindling social spending, (until recently) stagnant real-wage growth, and the continued dependency on the market for social reproduction.


Allen, K., Quinn, J., Hollingworth, S., & Rose, A. 2013. Becoming employable students and ‘ideal’ creative workers: exclusion and inequality in higher education work placements. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 34(3), 431-452.

Andrade, A., Chopra, S., Nurlybayev, B., & Gobal, L. 2018. Quantifying the impact of entrepreneurship on cooperative education job creation. International Journal of Work-Integrated Learning, 19(1), 51-68.

Ashton, D. 2015. Making media workers: contesting film and television industry career pathways. Television & New Media, 16(3), 275-294.

Axelrod, P., Anisef, P., & Lin, Z. 2001. Against all odds? The enduring value of liberal education in universities, professions, and the labor market. The Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 31(2), 47-78

Berg, L., Huijbens, E., & Larsen, H. 2016. Producing anxiety in the neoliberal university. The Canadian Geographer, 60(2), 168-180.

Berlant, L. 2011. Cruel Optimism. Durham: Duke University Press.

Bowles, S., & Gintis, H. 1976. Schooling in Capitalist America: Educational Reform and the Contradictions of Economic Life. New York: Basic Books

Brooks, R., Waters, J., & Pimlott-Wilson, H. 2012. International education and the employability of UK students. British Education Research Journal, 38(2), 281-198.

Brown, W. 2015. Undoing the Demos. New York: Zone.

Cheng, Y. 2016. Learning in neoliberal times: private degree students and the politics of value in Singapore. Environment and Planning A, 48(2), 292-308.

Cockayne, D. 2016. Entrepreneurial affect: attachment to work practice in San Francisco’s digital media sector. Environment and Planning D, 34(3), 456-473.

Cockayne, D. 2018. Underperformative economies: discrimination and gendered ideas of workplace culture in San Francisco’s digital media sector. Environment and Planning A, 50(4), 756-772.

Cockayne, D. 2020. Learning to labor in high-technology: experiences of overwork in university internships at digital media firms in North America. Social & Cultural Geography.

Coll, R., Eames, C., Paku, L., Lay, M., Hodges, D., Bhat, R., Ram, S., Ayling, D., Fleming, J., Ferkins, L., Wiersma, C., & Martin, A. 2009. An exploration of the pedagogies employed to integrate knowledge in work-integrated learning. Journal of Cooperative Education & Internships, 43(1), 14-35.

Collins, D., & Coleman, T. 2008. Social geographies of education: looking within, and beyond, school boundaries.Geography Compass, 2(1), 281-299.

Dewey, J. 1938. Experience and Education. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Findlay, A., King, R., Smith, F., Geddes, A., & Sheldon, R. 2012. World class? An investigation of globalization, difference, and international student mobility. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 37(1),118-131.

Findlay, A., Prazeres, L., McCollum, D., & Packwood, H. 2017. ‘It was always the plan’: international study as ‘learning to migrate’. Area, 49(2), 192-199.

Finn, K. 2017a. Multiple, relational, and emotional mobilities: understanding student mobilities in higher education as more ‘staying local’ than ‘going away.’ British Educational Research Journal, 43(4), 743-758.

Finn, K. 2017b. Relational transitions, emotional decisions: new directions for theorizing graduate employment. Journal of Education and Work, 30(4), 419-431.

Forsberg, S. 2019. Setting a global agenda for education: cooperation and tension within the global education policy field. Geoforum, 100, 32-40.

Forsey, M. 2017. Education in a mobile modernity. Geographical Research, 55(1), 58-89.

Freire, P. 1970. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. London: Bloomsbury.

Garraway, J. 2006. Creating productive tensions between work and the academy. Higher Education, 52, 447-464.

Gill, R. 2010. ‘Life is a pitch’: managing the self in new media work. In Deuze, M. (ed.) Managing Media Work. London: Sage, pp. 249-262.

Gill, R. 2014. Unsepakable inequalities: post-feminism, entrepreneurial subjectivity, and the repudiation of sexism among cultural workers. Social Politics, 21(4), 509-528

Giroux, H. 2003. Selling out higher education. Policy Futures in Education, 1(1), 179-200.

Grantham, K. 2018. Assessing international student mobility in Canadian university strategic plans: instrumentalist versus transformational approaches in higher education. Journal of Global Citizenship and Equity Education, 6(1), 1-21.

Guo, Y., & Guo, S. 2017. Internationalization of Canadian higher education: discrepancies between policies and international student experiences. Studies in Higher Education, 42(5), 851-868.

Hall, S. 2015. Geographies of marketization in English higher education: territorial and relational markets and the case of undergraduate student fees. Area, 47(4), 451-458.

Harvey, D. 2005. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hill, J., Walkington, H., & France, D. 2016. Graduate attributes: implications for higher education practice and policy. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 40(2), 155-163.

Holdsworth, C. 2017. The cult of experience: standing out from the crowd in an era of austerity. Area, 49(3), 296-302.

Holdsworth, C. 2018. Generic distinctiveness and the entrepreneurial self: a case study of English higher education. Journal of Youth Studies, 21(9), 1216-1231.

Hollway, S., & Kirby, P. 2020. Neoliberalizing education: new geographies of private tuition, class privilege, and minority ethnic advancement. Antipode, 52(1), 164-184.

Holloway, S., & Pimlott-Wilson, H. 2012. Neoliberalism, policy localization and idealized subjects: a case study on educational restructuring in England. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 37(4), 639-654.

hooks, b. 1994. Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. London: Routledge

Ipsos Reid. 2010. Impact of coop education programs. https://www.cewilcanada.ca/_Library/_documents/ResearchIpsos2010.pdf (last accessed 10 December 2019).

Jacobson, J., & Shade, L. 2018. Springtern: springboarding or stringing along young interns’ careers? Journal of Education and Work, 31(3): 320-337.

Johnston, J. 2011. Interrogating the goals of work-integrated learning: neoliberal agendas and critical pedagogy. Asia-Pacific Journal of Cooperative Education, 12(3), 175-182.

Jöns, H., & Hoyler, M. 2013. Global geographies of higher education: the perspective of world university rankings. Geoforum, 46, 45-59.

Knight, M. 2013. ‘New markets must be conquered’: race, gender, and the embodiment of entrepreneurship within texts. The Canadian Geographer, 57(3), 345-353.

Labaree, D. 2010. Someone Has to Fail: The Zero-Sum Game of Public Schooling. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Lewison, E. 2013. Consuming development: responsibility, citizenship, and the corporate university. The Canadian Geographer, 57(3), 363-371.

Lipman, P. 2004. High Stakes Education: Inequality, Globalization, and Urban School Reform. London: Routledge.

Lipman, P. 2011. The New Political Economy of Urban Education: Neoliberalism, Race, and the Right to the City. London: Routledge.

Martin, G., & Brown, T. 2013. Out of the box: making space for everyday critical pedagogies. The Canadian Geographer, 57(3), 381-388.

Marwick, A. 2013. Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age. New Haven: Yale University Press.

McCartney, D., & Metcalfe, A. 2018. Corporatization of higher education through internationalization: the emerge of pathway colleges in Canada. Tertiary Education and Management, 24(3), 206-220.

McRobbie, A. 2002. Clubs to companies: notes on the decline of political culture in speeded up creative worlds. Cultural Studies, 16(4), 516-531.

Milley, P. 2016. Commercializing higher learning through the discourse of skills in university co-operative education: tensions and contradictions. Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, 180, 99-134.

Milley, P., & Kovinthan, T. 2014. Examining the research base on university co-operative education in light of the neoliberal challenge to liberal education. Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 60(2), 377-402.

Mitchell, K. 2003. Educating the national citizen in neoliberal times: from the multicultural self to the strategic cosmopolitan. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 28(4), 387-403.

Mitchell, K. 2018. Making Workers: Radical Geographies of Education. London: Pluto Press.

Morley, L. 2001. Producing new workers: quality, equality, and employability in higher education. Quality in Higher Education, 7(2), 131-138.

Moskal, M., & Schweisfurth, M. 2018. Learning, using, and exchanging global competence in the context of international postgraduate mobility. Globalisation, Societies, and Education, 16(1), 93-105.

Nguyen, N., Cohen D., & Huff A. 2017. Catching the bus: a call for critical geographies of education. Geography Compass, 11(8),1-13.

Olssen, M., & Peters, M. 2005. Neoliberalism, higher education, and the knowledge economy: from the free market to knowledge capitalism. Journal of Education Policy, 20(3), 313-345.

Osborne, N., & Grant-Smith, D. 2017. Resisting the ‘employability’ doctrine through anarchist pedagogies and prefiguration. Australian Universities’ Review, 59(2), 59-69.

Owens, R., & Steward, A. 2016. Regulating for decent work experience: meeting the challenge of the rise of the intern. International Labor Review, 155(4), 679-709

Overtz, R. 1996. Turning resistance into rebellion: student movements and the entrepreneurialization of the university. Capital & Class, 20(1), 113-152.

Peck, J. 2005. Struggling with the creative class. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 29(4), 740-770.

Rowe, P. 2015. Researchers’ reflections on what is missing from work-integrated learning research. Asia-Pacific Journal of Cooperative Education, 16(2), 101-107.

Shade, L., & Jacobson, J. 2015. Hungry for the job: gender, unpaid internships, and the creative industries. The Sociological Review, 63, 188-205.

Slaughter, S., & Rhoades, G. 2004. Academic Capitalism and the New Economy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Statistics Canada. 2005. Co-operative education. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/81-595-m/2014101/section03-eng.htm#n8 (last accessed 10 December 2019)

Theodore, N. 2016. Worlds of work: changing landscapes of production and the new geographies of opportunity. Geography Compass, 10(4): 622-630.

Thiem, C. H. 2009. Thinking through education: the geographies of contemporary educational restructuring. Progress in Human Geography, 33(2), 154-173.

2020a. Student headcounts. https://uwaterloo.ca/institutional-analysis-planning/university-data-and-statistics/student-data/student-headcounts (last accessed 11 November 2020.)
2020b. Faculty of Engineering statistics. https://uwaterloo.ca/engineering/about/faculty-engineering-statistics (last accessed 11 November 2020.)
Van Mol, C. 2017. Do employers value international study and internships? A comparative analysis of 31 countries. Geoforum, 78, 52-60.

Viczko, M., & Tascón, C. 2016. Performing internationalization of higher education in Canadian national policy. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 46(2), 1-18.

Waters, J. 2017. Education unbound? Enlivening debates with a mobilities perspective on learning. Progress in Human Geography, 41(3), 279-298.

Waters, J., & Brooks, R. 2010. Accidental achievers? International higher education, class reproduction, and privilege in the experiences of UK students overseas. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 31(2), 217-228.

Weeks, K. 2011. The Problem with Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics and Postwork Imaginaries. Durham: Duke University Press.

Willis, P. 1981. Learning to Labor: How Working-Class Kids get Working Class Jobs. New York: Columbia University Press.

Winn, Joss. 2015. The co-operative university: labour, property, and pedagogy. Power & Education, 7(1), 39-55.

Wood, E. 2002. The Origin of Capitalism. London: Verso.
How to Cite
Cockayne, D. (2021). Entrepreneurial Education. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 20(1), 81-98. Retrieved from https://acme-journal.org/index.php/acme/article/view/1955