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ESRC Seminar Series: ‘New Perspectives on Education and Culture’ Seminar 6: Knowledge Cultures
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ESRC Seminar Series: ‘New Perspectives on Education and Culture’ Seminar 6: Knowledge Cultures

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  1. Universities, Knowledge Regimes and PublicsJohn HolmwoodUniversity of NottinghamCampaign for the Public University ESRC Seminar Series: ‘New Perspectives on Education and Culture’ Seminar 6: Knowledge Cultures British Library, December 3rd 2012

  2. Trajectories in higher education… • From a social democratic (Robbins) to a neo-liberal knowledge regime (Browne). • From a knowledge society to a (global) knowledge economy. • From a multi-versity (Kerr) to a mono-versity. • From higher education as a national system to universities as knowledge corporations within a global rank order.

  3. Robbins: one axiom, four aims… • “courses of higher education should be available for all those who are qualified by ability and attainment to pursue them and who wish to do so” (1963: para 30) • “there is no single aim which, if pursued to the exclusion of all others, would not leave out essential elements. Eclecticism in this sphere is not something to be despised: it is imposed by the circumstances of the case. To do justice to the complexity of things, it is necessary to acknowledge a plurality of aims” (1963: para 23).

  4. the public benefit of a skilled and educated workforce (1963: para 25), • the public benefit of higher education in producing cultivated men and women (1963: para 26), • the public benefit of securing the advancement of learning through the combination of teaching and research within institutions (1963: para 27), • and the public benefit of providing a common culture and standards of citizenship (1963: para 28).

  5. A social democratic knowledge regime..? • An inclusive public interest in higher education • Education as a social right, underpinning democratic inclusion • Higher education associated with economic growth in the context of a secular decline in inequalities (from mid-1930s to early 1980s) and the expansion of the welfare state • Emphasis upon disciplinary knowledge and professional expertise. • Provision of knowledge for ‘evidence-based’ policy – linked to the foundation of the SSRC (ESRC) in 1965. • [Relatively low-level of community-engagement/community-based learning because of ‘institutionalising’ character of welfare state]

  6. Two ‘critiques’ and one ‘pathology’… • Rise of mass higher education and radical critiques of inclusion/exclusion (gender, race and the new left). • Critique of professions/knowledge as power. • Neo-liberal critique of welfare state and idea of social rights of citizenship (not initially applied to education). • Critique of professions/state as power to be replaced by markets. • Pathology is the problem of funding as citizens become addressed as ‘consumers’/’taxpayers’ (first identified by Clark Kerr); reinforces instrumental orientation to knowledge

  7. Emergence of a neo-liberal knowledge regime… • Jarratt Report (1985) and shift from collegial/professional organisation to managerial hierarchy. • Market proxies and the audit of teaching and research (QAA and RAE/REF). • Shift from public funding of teaching to a ‘co-funding’ model - Dearing (1997). • Two further steps represent full-blown model: • Impact agenda/ pathways to impact • Implementation of Browne Review

  8. The neo-liberal knowledge regime… • Research is valued for its contribution to economic growth and for the extent to which it can be ‘commodified’. • Education is to be considered as an investment in human capital and a private responsibility of individuals. • Entry of ‘for profit’ providers – including, and especially, multinational corporations. • Stratification of universities and the creation of a new ‘elite’ of resource rich, research-intensive universities and resource poor, teaching-only institutions. • ‘Freeing’ universities to pursue ‘for-profit’ activities, and to seek ‘for-profit’ partners.

  9. From knowledge society to the knowledge economy. • Higher education now as the engine of widening inequality not its amelioration. (UK in top 10 of most unequal countries) • Emphasis on ‘low aspirations’ and social mobility into ‘selective’ universities, but 25% of UK’s young people live in poverty. Those without qualifications cast as undeserving poor. • But also generational inequality – shift in burden of costs of higher education from current taxpayers onto young (fees, and as future taxpayers in terms of the costs of the loan system). • Aim is to ‘lock in’ taxpayer rejection of public spending

  10. But also an attack on ‘publics’… • Idea of a ‘public’ depends on dialogue, with politics as the representation of publics. • Market as ‘non-dialogical’. • Reduction of publics to the market is anti-democratic (cf Occupy). • Public university serves as a space for the production and dissemination of knowledge, including the evaluation of expertise. • Impact agenda and the emphasis on co-production of knowledge, but latter emphasises instrumental relations and already constituted interests.

  11. The ‘public’ … British Social Attitudes Survey prior to Browne Review: • 70% thought advantages of university education were more than simply being paid more • 65% were opposed to differential fees for the same course • 75% thought fees prior to the revised system left students with too much debt • 80% thought children from better-off families had more opportunities than those from less well-off familes • 27% thought people in Britain have similar opportunities regardless of income Discussed in Stephen McKay and Karen Rowlingson ‘ The religion of inequality’ in John HolmwoodA Manifesto for the Public University (Bloomsbury 2011)

  12. But attitudes are softening in the latest survey … Just not in the manner expected (or mobilised by Government rhetoric): • Among those with graduate level qualifications, 42% support the idea that students should pay for the costs of higher education, and 30% believe there should be a reduction in the numbers studying at university. • Among those without qualifications , 11% support the idea that students should pay for the costs of higher education and only 19% believe there should be a reduction in student numbers.