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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 7British and German Students in a Shifting Scenario 171


Chapter 7 British and German Education Students in a Shifting Scenario1 Impetus for Change It is commonly argued that higher education is changing in response to the imperative of market forces and competition (HE). Much work has been done on how this is impacting upon aspects of HE such as finance, management and the academic profession, but less attention has been paid to those who are learners within the system. The aim of the present study is to focus upon students in the United Kingdom (UK) and the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) in order to assess the extent to which their beliefs and attitudes may be diverging from traditional mind-sets and veer- ing towards those more associated with market forces in higher education. The notion of “academic capitalism” has been developed by Slaughter and Leslie (1997) who define it as a combination of the market and “market-like behaviour”. These involve initiatives such as manipulating formula funding to introduce competition, reducing dependence upon the state, increasing consumer choice, enterprise and privatisation. They are convinced that the public universities of most westernised countries are moving towards this mode and believe that it impacts upon values, norms and beliefs in a way that is destabilising patterns of university professional work developed over the past hundred years. They test this hypothesis upon academic staf f in four countries: Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. Not all these four countries responded to globalisation in 1 First published in Higher Education Management...

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