Chile exhibits one of the most privatised higher education system (HES) in the world, a tendency closely followed by countries such as the United Kingdom and South-Korea, Japan and the United States (OECD, 2014). Firstly, of a total of 60 universities, only 16 are public universities and most of students (80%) are enrolled in private universities. The latter is a consequence of a package of laws that was imposed in the 1980’s during the Pinochet dictatorship and that have remained in force until today. These laws intended to open the market of higher education to promote a widening participation but, most importantly, to allow the private sector to play a key role. As a consequence, numerous new private universities – most of them teaching-oriented universities – were created since 1981 onwards. Secondly, although in Chile historically traditional private universities have received direct funding from the state since their creation, currently, public funding for both public and traditional private universities have decreased from a 90% before 1981 to an average of 15% in the case of public universities (Contraloría General de la República, 2012). As a consequence of a scarce of public funds, public and private universities compete for financial resources mainly by attracting new students and competing for research funds. And thirdly, because Chile’s tuition fees are one of the highest in the world (adjusted by Purchasing Power Parity), students and their families have taken on the financial burden. Around 60% of students receive financial support in the form of scholarships or loans subsidised by the state (SIES, 2014) but managed by private banks. Meanwhile, students had to pay their loans with an interest rate of 6%, which decreased to 2% after a student movement in 2011 An important fact here is that most students (66.7%) who benefit from subsidised loans are enrolled in private universities, and 12.7% of them study at private universities that have been investigated because of their profit- orientation (Kremerman and Páez, 2016).
The increasing marketisation and privatisation of public goods have not only experienced in Chile but have turned into a global phenomenon (Naidoo, Shankar, and Ekant, 2014) in which the boundaries between public and private have become fuzzy. In analysing the conceptualisation of the ‘public’ in the context of hybrid university discourses, Guzmán-Valenzuela (2016) refers to an exchangeability of the concepts of public and private where public universities display some features of private universities and some private universities present themselves as fulfilling public roles. Other studies (Fairclough, 1993; Lowrie and Willmott, 2006; 2005b; Simbürger, 2012; Guzmán-Valenzuela & Barnett 2013) have researched how marketisation processes in higher education have been transforming the public discourse about the university.
In this paper, we pay attention to the role that mass-media and particularly newspapers in Chile have played in the construction of a discourse around the public university. Mass-media have been identified as a powerful means to spread discourses in society (Bennett, Lawrence and Livingston, 2008; Happer and Philo, 2013; van Dijk, 1995). Porta and Cianci (2016), for example, have shown how conservative mass media reinforce processes of privatisation in education and disqualify public education in Argentina, Chile, Ecuador and Mexico. In Chile, Cabalín (2013) identified how conservative newspaper editorials frame educational policies, thereby taking the role of political actors in educational policy.
Bennett, W. L., Lawrence, R. G., & Livingston, S. (2008). When the press fails: Political power and the news media from Iraq to Katrina. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Brunner, J. J. (2014). Transformación de lo público y el reto de la innovación universitaria. Bordón revista de Pedadogía. Número monográfico Gobierno y gobernanza de la universidad: el debate emergente, 45-60. Cabalin, C. (2013). ‘Framing’ y políticas educacionales: Los medios como actores políticos en educación. Estudios sobre el Mensaje Periodístico, 19(2), 635-647. Contraloría General de la República, (2012). Financiamiento Fiscal a la Educación Superior. Retrieved on May 19th 2016 from http://www.contraloria.cl/NewPortal2/portal2/ShowProperty/BEA%20Repository/Portal/Bases/Contabilidad/Estudios/Financiamiento_Fiscal_2012 Fairclough, N. (2003). Analysing Discourse: Textual Analysis for Social Research. London: Routledge. Guzmán-Valenzuela, C. (2016). Unfolding the meaning of public (s) in universities: toward the transformative university. Higher Education, 71(5), 667-679. Guzmán-Valenzuela, C., & Barnett, R. (2013). Academic Fragilities in a marketised age: the Case of Chile. British Journal of Educational Studies, 61(2), 203-220. Happer, C., & Philo, G. (2013). The role of the media in the construction of public belief and social change. Journal of social and political psychology, 1(1), 321-336. Joignant, A. (2011). The Politics of Technopols: Resources, Political Competence and Collective. Kremerman, M. & Páez, A. (2016). Endeudar para gobernar y mercantilizar: El caso del CAE. Santiago: Fundación Sol. Retrieved on October 30th 2016 from http://www.fundacionsol.cl/estudios/endeudar-gobernar-mercantilizar-caso-del-cae/ Lowrie, A. & Willmott, H. (2006). Marketing higher education. The promotion of relevance and the relevance of promotion. Social Epistemology, 20(3-4). 221-240. Naidoo, R., Shankar, A. & Ekant, V. (2011). The Consumerist Turn in Higher Education: Policy Aspirations and Outcomes. Journal of Marketing Management, 27(11/12), 1142-1162. OECD (2014). Education at a glance. Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/edu/Educationat-a-Glance-2014.pdf Porta, E. D. & Cianci, M. (2016). Mediatization of the privatization processes of─ and in─ education in Latin America and the Caribbean: a study of media discourse. Educação & Sociedade, 37(134), 35-54. Servicio de Información de Educación Superior (SIES) (2014). Panorama de la Educación Superior en Chile 2014. Retrieved on December 15th from: http://www.mifuturo.cl/images/Estudios/Estudios_SIES_DIVESUP/panorama_de_la_educacion_superior_2014_sies.pdf Simbürger, E. (2013). Moving through the city: Visual discourses of upward social mobility in higher education advertisements on public transport in Santiago de Chile. Visual Studies, 28(1), 67-77. Van Dijk, T. A. (1995). Discourse semantics and ideology. Discourse & Society, 6(2), 243-289.
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