Critical Perspectives on Theory, Policy and Practice
Higher education serves both public and private purposes. In the public sphere at various times universities have existed primarily to provide intellectual underpinnings for religious beliefs and to provide staff for religious organisations, to provide qualified public servants for emerging nation states, to discover theoretical laws and processes that permit understanding and some control of the natural world, and to provide thoughtful and able people in a very wide range of occupations in a modern society. At the same time those who have been able to become religious leaders or senior public servants or distinguished scientists or generally successful in their occupations as a result of their higher education have invariably obtained considerable benefits as individuals. However the balance between the public and private and what constitute the public and private benefits has swung backwards and forwards over the centuries. In recent decades the main public benefit has been seen by governments at least as the promotion of economic growth while distributing the benefits to as many people as possible as equally as possible.
This book examines how different theoretical perspectives conceive of higher education as a public good. The idea of higher education as a public good is also used as a vehicle for theorizing the study of higher education. However, the following chapters are not only theoretical analyses. Drawing upon different disciplinary perspectives, they explore how theories about the purposes and functions of higher education impinge on policy and practice.
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