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Higher Education As a Public Good

Critical Perspectives on Theory, Policy and Practice


Edited By Ourania Filippakou and Gareth Williams

Higher education is likely to involve the majority of people at some time in their lives in the twenty-first century. The main drivers of expansion in the previous century were a belief that widening access promotes social equity and the advance of knowledge as the main factor underpinning economic success for individuals and societies. However, universal higher education in rapidly changing economies raises many questions that have been inadequately treated by previous authors. This volume focuses on the question of whether it is appropriate and inevitable that higher education systems are becoming so large and so diverse that the only realistic way they can be analysed is as aggregates of market-like transactions. Most of the authors are not satisfied with this conclusion, but they recognise, from several disciplinary perspectives, that it is no longer possible to take it for granted that higher education is intrinsically a public good. Are there convincing alternatives?


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I. Higher Education As a Public Good: Notes for a Discussion Ourania FilippakOu Overview As mass higher education evolves into universal higher education, with more than half the population taking part, massive debates about its purpose and practice are taking place. One of the most important of these is a questioning of the widely held view that higher education is intrinsically a public good. The aim of this book is to examine this debate in the context of exploring the purposes of higher education in the 21st century. Higher education as a public good can be theorised in three broad ways: ideas of higher education, models of higher education delivery and policies where ideas and models meet the world of other, often conflicting claims and ideas. This book is as an examination of these three approaches emerging out of the current ideological struggle at the core of higher education that is reshaping policy and institutional behaviour: 1. The ways in which the idea of higher education as a public good is changing—the interpretations of higher education as either a private or a public good—in response to the pressures coming from the state, especially the political control of funding. 2. How curriculum delivery and research might be effected in pursuit of (1). 3. How institutional change might be effected in order to bring about 1. and 2. Higher education is now a key policy arena for government and the state. The political debate centres upon the perceived role of...

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