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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 10The Bologna Process in Higher Education:German and British Responses 255


Chapter 10 The Bologna Process in Higher Education: British and German Responses “Soft” Policy in the Pursuit of a European Higher Education Area It is curious to ref lect upon the fact that the Bologna Process began in France, not in Italy, which claims to be home to the oldest university in Europe. In May 1998 on the occasion of the 800th anniversary of the found- ing of the Sorbonne, Claude Allègre, the French Minister of Education, called for university systems to adapt to the era of the knowledge economy. Together with the ministers of higher education in Germany, Italy and the UK (the four signatories to the subsequent 1998 Sorbonne Declaration), he undertook to work for a common university architecture of Bachelor and Master’s degrees, and to encourage other European governments to do the same. As part of the Declaration, it was agreed that higher education had a mission to strengthen Europe’s intellectual, cultural, social and tech- nical dimensions; the signatories committed themselves to encouraging a common frame of reference, aimed at improving external recognition and facilitating student mobility as well as employability. They undertook to create a European area of higher education, where national identities and common interests could interact and strengthen each other for the benefit of Europe, of its students, and more generally of its citizens. Although it was not explicitly mentioned in the Declaration, the ministers were very aware of American competition, and hoped by their action to help estab- lish a European counter-balance...

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