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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 3Challenges of Participation in German Higher Education:An East–West Comparison 81


Chapter 3 Challenges of Participation in German Higher Education: An East–West Comparison1 Higher Education, Humboldt and the Soviet Model The German concept of higher education is usually attributed to Wilhelm von Humboldt whose statue, along with that of his brother, Alexander, is displayed in front of the Humboldt University in East Berlin (see Anrich, 1956; also Schelsky, 1963). His ideal of university education has become a seminal model for institutions of advanced study in many countries of Europe and in the United States. It originated in Berlin where an attempt was made to implement it in the now eponymous university in the eastern sector of the city. The word “attempt” is used advisedly because as a model, Humboldt’s idea of a university was never completely realised, and was often more honoured in the breach than the observance. However, like an essentialist philosophy or a religion, it appeals to an innate sense of idealism, and may embody some permanent truths bearing upon scholar- ship, the academic community and the life of the mind. Nevertheless, it must not be forgotten that such ideals arise from a particular set of social and political circumstances which may not be valid for all time (Ringer, 1969). After the Second World War, and the partition of Germany, Humboldt’s model of higher education was superseded but not entirely replaced in the Eastern Bloc by the Soviet model. Its founder’s creed of individualism and 1 First published in M. Dennis and E. Kolinsky (eds) (2004). United and...

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