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Neoliberal Developments in Higher Education

The United Kingdom and Germany

Rosalind Pritchard

The paradigmatic values underlying British and German higher education emphasise personal growth, the wholeness of the individual, intellectual freedom and the pursuit of knowledge, which cumulatively can be viewed as a form of academic essentialism. However, these concepts were generated within a particular cultural and historical context which has largely been supplanted by neoliberalism. This book studies the emergence over the last twenty years of trends that define themselves in opposition to the traditional university ethos. It addresses the first experiments with private universities in both the United Kingdom and Germany, the instigation of bidding and competition for funding, the assertion of a practical over a theoretical focus in British teacher education and the contrasting views of their institutions held by British and German students and staff. It shows how the antithesis of a neoliberal university system, that of the former German Democratic Republic, was transformed under the impact of unification policies. The author also analyses important social issues, such as gender, in relation to the academic profession, highlighting how the individual may feel atomised despite a discourse of equality. Finally, the two higher education systems are examined within the context of the Bologna Process, which in many respects embraces academic capitalism – the epitome of neoliberalism. The book encompasses both qualitative and quantitative research spanning two decades of scholarship, and reflects the author’s profound engagement with universities and with British and German academic culture.


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Introduction 1


1 autonomy and the liberalisation or even wholesale abolition of professo- rial payment scales, the raising of restrictions on intake figures, and the legal right for all institutions to hold property and accumulate capital. Küpper (2009), who is head of the Bavarian State Institute for Higher Education Research and Planning, assesses the German HE ef ficiency reforms as positive on the whole. However, he rejects the Americanisation of German higher education and believes that the problem of the relation- ship between hierarchy and collegiality cannot be solved through entre- preneurial measures. The myth that all universities are equal is quite pervasive in Europe, and has been particularly prevalent in Germany, but in the long run it has been damaging to the highest institutional achievement. Cheng and Liu (2007: 360) point out that the Germans do not have any universi- ties in the world top-twenty of the Shanghai ranking, and speculate that: “[T]he idea of ‘equality’ among their universities could be the most important reason for this fact, as could the existence of strong independ- ent research institutes.” The negative myth of inter-institutional equality is also castigated by Müller-Böling and Federkeit (2007) and Altbach (2007). The German government has become very conscious that the rhetoric of equality was unreal, and militated against achieving the very highest standards. It has therefore introduced the “Excellence Initiative” which was passed by the German federal and state governments in 2005 and is an important reform leading to institutional dif ferentiation. For...

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