Meng-Hsuan Chou, Isaac A Kamola, and Tamson Pietsch
Higher education is rapidly changing across the world. Universities are now seen as key engines of a ‘knowledge economy’—their performances purportedly measured by global rankings. To understand the profound transformation we have seen in higher education in the recent decades, this chapter argues and shows how it is essential to attend to three aspects of this process. First, we need to think carefully about the history of the university and the ways in which its relationship with empire, nation and class is being refashioned in the era of market capitalism. The long-term legacies of European imperialism and trade, as well as their cultural effects, need to be better integrated into an analysis of contemporary higher education. Second, we should consider the way university reforms are enacted at national and institutional levels, leading to radically different outcomes in different contexts. For example, the wishes of international financial organisation or norms around academic freedom often find themselves in conflict with the wishes of national governments or institutional administrations. In these moments of friction we can begin to understand and identify the various national and international actors who have a stake in ‘globalisation’, and how they advance and protect their claims through and within it. Third, we must develop a more careful consideration of the importance of geographic regions and the ways in which they are emerging as new players in the governance of tertiary education. As regional organisations become increasingly involved in the business of higher education, we see political processes driven by supranational forces that both work through and bypass national agencies.
Universities and the individuals who work in them are both local and global actors. They are rooted in specific social, political and economic communities, yet their authority comes from their claim to be representatives of a culture and learning that is apparently ‘universal’ in that it is recognisable and even tradable beyond the boundaries of particular localities. Understanding the respects in which scholarship has been territorialised or deterritorialised—by states, universities, and international relations among other forces—is a way of tracing the long history of the transnational politics of higher education. This chapter argues that, if we are to understand the geographies of higher education today, it is necessary to look to the past and its legacies. It traces the long history of the university, from its European origins in the Middle Ages through to the present, in order to show how its adaptation (or failure to adapt) to the changing politics of the local and the ‘universal’ has created various transnational geographies of connection that continue to shape the international ‘worlds’ of higher education in the 21st century.
3 Situating ‘The Global University’ in South Africa
Isaac A Kamola
This chapter examines the academic and policy debates around post-apartheid higher education. Over the course of many decades, South African antiapartheid activists had developed a fairly radical understanding of higher education as a site of democratic citizenship, de-racialisation, and economic redistribution. However, with the end of the apartheid system, this historically rooted and place-based vision of higher education was rapidly replaced by a vision of universities as valuable because they contributed to a ‘global knowledge economy’. As one particular example of transformations within the broader world of higher education, this chapter examines how the ability for South Africans to produce their own, potentially fairly radical, understandings of higher education was swiftly foreclosed upon in favour of a language, and set of policy practices, that reduced universities to economic institutions. This chapter highlights the ways in which international organisations, funding agencies, and international experts, as well as domestic political actors and scholars, all participated in this transformation.
4 The political economy of international higher education and the academic labour in the Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf city states of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Qatar, fuelled by windfall oil profits, heralded their meteoric rise and newfound status within the global imaginary with a frenzy of commercial building which included the construction of the tallest building in the world, ski resorts in the desert, under-water hotels, and artificial islands in the sea. As stunning as their arrival in the world’s popular consciousness, was their ability to attract elite Western educational and cultural institutions such as the Sorbonne, the Guggenheim, the Louvre, NYU, Cornell, and Georgetown University. Lured by generous cash offerings as well as a desire to be near what was perceived to be a dynamic new hub for global commerce, these institutions claimed their presence would facilitate meaningful dialogue in ways that advanced liberal political reform in an otherwise authoritarian political landscape. This chapter examines the political and economic relationships between Western universities, their host countries, and the academic personnel imported to staff these new institutions. The chapter argues that the kefala regime, a repressive system designed to facilitate and control the flow of migrant labour to the region, has had a corrosive effect on academic freedom within these campuses and as such has stymied their ability to engage in the forms of public dialogue that they earlier envisioned. The academic workers brought in to staff these universities soon find that the labour regulations designed to ensure a low cost and docile work force exerts a similarly repressive a force on them and that they are now under many of the same constraints as the workers brought in to build the campuses that they now staff.
5 ‘We come in peace’: ideology and higher education policy in Latin America
- Salvador Peralta and Thiago Pezzuto Pacheco
Throughout Latin America, the return to power of parties and leaders from the left in the past two decades has raised important question about the impact of ideology on higher education policies. This chapter explores recent trends in higher education in Latin America, and addresses two central questions: What factors explain current higher education policies in Brazil, Chile, and Venezuela? To what extent are Latin American governments of the left undoing, resisting, or adapting transnational models for higher education reform? We argue that at least three factors explain variations in higher-education policy across the region. First, Latin American governments of the left lack the necessary resources to implement their preferred higher education polices: increase access and funding, and reverse or at least slow down the growth of privatisation in higher education. Second, history plays a significant role in limiting the capacity of leftist policy makers to change higher education policy. In particular, the implementation of neoliberal policies prior to the left’s return to power has made it impossible for leftist government to change the course of higher education policies upon their return. Third, private universities fill an important void in the provision of higher education in Latin America and therefore have become an integral part of an emerging higher education market in the region. In short, our case studies help to illustrate the uneven transnational ‘worlds’ of academia, the influence of history in the transformation and shaping of national policies, and the relevance of local resistance to transnational models of higher education.
6 Contestation over integration and autonomy of universities in the former Yugoslavia: how global and European ideas are used in domestic politics
This chapter analyses 25 years of higher education policy changes in Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia concerning two issues: autonomy and integration of universities. In these contexts, both domestic and international actors taking part in policy processes have used various approaches to legitimise their often opposing preferences. These include invoking global ideas concerning effectiveness, efficiency and strategic behaviour of universities, referring to European norms and practices about the appropriate distribution of decision-making authority within research-intensive universities, and relying on inherently domestic interpretations of autonomy and integration. This chapter demonstrates that autonomy and integration as well as global and European ideas about them are highly contested and open for diverse interpretations. Such ambiguity means that the specific outcomes of contestation in the three countries are far from being determined by transnational (global and European) influences, given that the domestic actors strategically use them to further their own political goals and policy preferences.
7 Human-capital strategies to build world-class research universities in Asia: impact on global flows
Anju Mary Paul and Victoria Long
Ambitious governments in Asia have invested vast sums to upgrade their national universities from largely teaching-oriented institutions to research-oriented ones, with a special focus on research in science and technology. We identify and assess five human-capital strategies that have been adopted in the attempt to transform national universities in Singapore, China, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan into world-class, research-intensive universities. These include (1) establishing alliances with world-class universities in the West, (2) encouraging the return migration of their native-born scientists to boost their domestic research output, (3) actively recruiting foreign academics to join their universities, (4) recruiting foreign students to enrol in their degree programs, and (5) recruiting more research-focused graduate students. Through both primary and secondary data analysis, we find that Asian universities have experienced significant but varying levels of success with each of these strategies. We also note an increase in the degree of regionalisation occurring at both the faculty and student level across top universities in Asia, while also observing that adoption of these human capital strategies can increase bottom-up pressure for transnational isomorphism in how Asian universities support and fund scientific research.
This chapter illuminates the real difficulties in removing mobility barriers to free movement of knowledge even in a region experienced in this very task—the European Union. European policymakers believed that practising open recruitment would make Europe an attractive destination for research and innovation. In 2008, the European Commission launched the Human Resources Strategy to implement the ‘European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers’—a set of 40 principles intended to improve researcher recruitment practices and research careers. This chapter identifies three sets of obstacles in the way of free movement of researchers using data gathered from participant observation of three implementation sessions. First, the participating administrators represented fundamentally different institutions, and these differences limited the extent to which best practices from one type of institution can be used in another with an entirely different organisational structure and mission. Second, the non-binding nature of the Charter and Code did little to discourage existing differences in researcher recruitment practices. Third, the new communication language and working method associated with the new organisers, who actually lacked substantive knowledge of the Charter and Code in the beginning, contributed to the endurance of existing differences. Hence, the European higher education landscape remains uneven, reflecting the diversity of these systems shaped by history and the personalities and ambitions of those who worked in these higher education systems.
9 Global University Rankings and Transnational Politics of Higher Education
This chapter explores global university rankings as a transnational policy discourse, concentrating particularly on its limitations and possible negative outcomes. Global university rankings have existed merely a decade but they have nevertheless become highly influential in transnational politics of higher education. The rankings have also been used as policy instruments in various reforms on higher education in different parts of the world. Many of the themes discussed in the previous chapters can be linked to the political imaginary of higher education as global competition between universities that the rankings have helped to construct. The rankings have portrayed American top-universities as a model to emulate, identifying key attributes for success in the global competition for excellence in higher education. This has caused a shift in the transnational higher education policies that now focus on the top 100 institutions globally. Consequently, national and regional higher education policies now aim for institutional excellence in global terms at the cost of cohesion of national higher education systems.