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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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Chapter 1Academic Freedom and Autonomy in the United Kingdomand Germany 19


Chapter 1 Academic Freedom and Autonomy in the United Kingdom and Germany1 Two Contrasting Traditions The freedom of the university as an institution is usually discussed and defined in terms of its relation to the state. German universities have close links with the state: their professors are civil servants (Beamte) with a special duty of loyalty towards the Constitution, and their appointments to Chairs have to be ratified by the appropriate Ministry; the final examinations taken by future teachers and lawyers, for example, are state rather than university examinations; university budgets are set out in detail by Land of ficials. Facts such as these make Germans somewhat self-deprecatory about free- dom in their universities; thus Berchem (1985) notes that Germany comes far down the international league table on an OECD index of autonomy (OECD, 1980) and Gellert (1985) writes: “The very low degree of univer- sity autonomy in Germany is indeed one of the main reasons for scarcely existent competition at institutional level and the lack of incentive and control mechanisms within the universities in the past.” By contrast, the British tend to be sanguine about their academic free- dom and values because their universities are legally independent corporate bodies. Tim Boswell, at the time British Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Further and Higher Education, made the following statement during his Deutsch-Englische Gesellschaft lecture tour: 1 First published in Minerva, 36 (2), 101–124, 1998. 20 Chapter 1 The traditions of control in Britain show interesting dif ferences from those...

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