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Higher Education In A Changing Climate: Neoliberalism

2444 words - 10 pages

June 2011 marked a significant, albeit controversial period for academics in Great Britain when the New College of the Humanities (NCHUM) was unveiled to the public as the country’s first private institution of liberal arts (Gopal, 2012, p.383). Some, such as professor Grayling of Birkbeck College London, supported the college’s defense of the humanities courses through privatization, while many academics viewed the NCHUM as a business opportunity in response to students who sought an end to the public funding of liberal arts (Gopal, 2012, p.383). The controversy surrounding this establishment illustrates a number of concerns that have sprung from the seeds of the neoliberal policies for ...view middle of the document...

As with most forms of policy, neoliberalism has been met with both contempt and criticism. Some proponents argue that students should be allowed to explore and pursue their education freely, and that the chosen schools be given an edge over the perceived ‘ineffective’ monopoly of public education (Fruja, 2011, p.68). Also, these critics propose that “schools should be held ‘accountable’ to the market not only in efficiency but also in producing the necessary skilled laborers for the invoked globally emerging knowledge-based economy” (Fruja, 2011, p.68). It is the intention of the aforementioned supporters that education be considered a private affair, rather than a public good. The movement has also been met with much contention from critics, including Henry Giroux who wrote that neoliberalism is “the most dangerous ideology of the current historical moment,” because the free-market reduces the importance of public spaces (Fruja, 2011, pp.68-69). Supported or not, neoliberalism serves as an economic model for much of the Western world’s higher education.
How the policies of neoliberalism are implemented vary from country to country. The United Kingdom, for example, has observed a significant change in their educational model (Bhambra & Holmwood, 2012, p.393). Having formerly observed a social rights-oriented approach to institutionalized learning, the UK shifted to a neoliberal free market similar to that of the United States (Bhambra & Holmwood, 2012, p.393). This change was accompanied by a number of issues that reflect the economic strain placed on the UK. Bhambra and Holmwood wrote that “whereas the United States has always been the outlier in the continuum of liberal rights and social rights, the UK began to beat a path from one end of the continuum to the other, with dramatic consequences in terms of widening inequalities and the entrenchment of poverty” (2012, p.393). This means that people who occupy the UK’s lower-class are among the most affected by this reform.
What makes the situation in the UK unique, according to Bhambra and Holmwood (2012), is the rapidity of which these doctrines have taken effect (p.394). Contrary to the gradual adoption of neoliberal policy that has characterized the United States in years past, the UK took a more aggressive approach, instituting major changes in a short period of time (Bhambra & Holmwood, 2012, p.394). The United Kingdom represents one of the many countries that have adapted their university structures to the demands of corporatized economics.
Corporatization is but one facet of the neoliberal agenda. Corporations are not recognized solely for the goods they provide, but also the brand recognition they invoke. In response to the changing academic climate, it is more important than ever for institutions to distinguish themselves from the competition if they are to attract potential consumers. The importance of this concept is illustrated by Naomi Klein, in that “the products that...

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