It would be easy to assume that social trust is a normatively good value to promote within institutions. Trust encourages cooperation between actors, and thus normalises policies, practices and behaviours that tend to work towards collective social good. To assume this would also be to assume that trust should be a central aspiration for policy design. However, this conceptual paper argues that the competitive landscape of the English Further Education sector does not lend itself to such values. The extent to which competition has become normalised makes concerns over financial health commonplace around the boardroom in FE Colleges. In this context, perhaps the benefits associated with building and maintaining trust in this context are problematic. Perhaps it is important to consider whether in fact, distrust is fundamental to institutional survival? This paper offers three theoretical concepts from the trust literature which conceptualise how the FE policy environment enlists organisations and individual actors towards objectives which are linked to competition, centrally devised standards and institutional survival. In this way, I suggest that strategies based upon distrust may be put to greater use in the design of institutional policy, as the need to establish control takes primacy over cooperation.
- further education