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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 2Principles and Pragmatism in Private Higher Education:Examples from the United Kingdom and Germany 45


Chapter 2 Principles and Pragmatism in Private Higher Education: Examples from the United Kingdom and Germany1 State Control in Education: Incubus or Genie? Many of the Conservative governments of contemporary Western Europe are intent upon developing competition and privatisation in the educa- tional sphere. Their of ficial rhetoric is that reduced dependence upon state funding will mean increased freedom for individuals and educational institutions. This argument is viewed with hostility and suspicion by certain pressure groups in society (typically, the Socialists) who fear that an even partial withdrawal of state control will allow well-of f or well-educated people to promote their own children’s life-chances ef ficiently, while the children of the less well-of f will be disadvantaged. It is the suspicion that they may contribute to social inequality which makes non-state universi- ties (and of course schools too) politically controversial. In Germany and Britain, the spirit of the age favours individuality, diversity and free enterprise in education – all values conducive to the foundation of non-state universities. The number of non-state higher edu- cation institutions (HEIs) in West Germany is now quite substantial. In 1987, there were 53 of them with about 23,500 students (BMBW, 1987a: 3). The Germans make a distinction between Fachhochschulen (roughly the equivalent of the British polytechnics) and universities. The latter are 1 First published in Higher Education 24 (2), 247–273, 1992. 46 Chapter 2 supposed to have a broad subject range and a good research profile whereas the forner may be monotechnics or confine...

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