The value of higher education is often implicit or assumed in educational research. The underlying and antecedent premises that shape and influence debates about value remain unchallenged,which perpetuates the dominant, but limiting, terms of the debate and fosters reductionism. The article proceeds on the premise that analyses of value are not self-supporting or self-referential but are embedded within prevailing cultures of valuation. It contends that challenging, and providing alternatives to, dominant narratives of higher education requires an appreciation of those cultures. It therefore highlights some of the existing cultures of valuation and their influence. It then proposes Sayer’s concept of lay normativity as a culture of valuation and discusses how it translates into the practices of research into higher education, specifically the practic eof analysis. The discussion is animated by detecting the presence of lay normativity in the evaluative space of the capability approach.