22 SES 02 C, Reforms, Rankings & Quality Assurance
Over the last few decades, the landscape of higher education has transformed all around the globe. The massification of higher education (Hazelkorn 2016), the retreat of the state in financing higher education (Giroux 2014), the emergence of accountability measures (Huisman and Currie 2004) and the commercialization of education (Etzkzowitz 2004) are posing new challenges for higher education. In Latin America, and particularly in Chile, an increasing demand for higher education has been mainly addressed through the creation of private higher education institutions. In addition, scarcity of public funding has intensified the marketization of the system, the competition for prestige and resources and the establishment of one of the highest tuition fees in the world (Torres and Schugurensky 2002). In a context where public funds are scarce and where purchasing and selling educational commodities as well as seeking profit have become a central part of the functioning of the neoliberal university (Ball 2012; Giroux, 2015), Chile has taken a leading role. With one of highest tuition fees, families carry the weight of funding higher education. Since 2014 and in response to the demands of the Chilean students’ movement for free higher education (Simbürger and Neary, 20015; Guzmán-Valenzuela, 2016) Chile has been implementing a reform in higher education. Free higher education has been, by far, the most controversial measure of this reform. It has generated divergent discourses among actors (e.g. students, academics, and authorities), political sectors and the community in general. The debate started with the announcement of free higher education for the 50% poorest university students in 2014 and it has continued throughout its implementation.
All over the globe, the restructuring of higher education that often involves public funding cuts has often been labelled as a reform. Yet, hardly ever the question is raised what qualifies as a reform in higher education and how we can define a reform in higher education. This paper aims to examine higher education scholars’ perspectives on issues of higher education reform as well as on the theoretical foundations of these concepts.
The methodology of this paper is twofold. First of all, we analyse a wide body of literature from higher education studies to educational philosophy, exploring the varied meanings of the notion of reform in higher education and its connotations. Our theoretical analysis prepares the ground for an empirical analysis of the concept of reform and its multiple meanings. 15 qualitative expert interviews with higher education studies scholars from different countries – Europe, the US, Asia and Latin America (in particular Chile), allow us to study the varied conceptualisations and meanings of higher education reforms. By means of a critical discourse analysis (CDA) (Fairclough, 2003; 1993) we examine discourses about higher education reforms and how they are understood.
The interviews carried out so far indicate that despite the regional variety of scholars interviewed and their belonging to different higher education structures (public/private) the understanding of reform as a move from a mostly publicly funded system to a private one is a predominant discourse. Scholars from publicly funded higher education systems show a higher tendency of questioning higher education reforms.
Ball, S. J. (2012). Performativity, commodification and commitment: An I-spy guide to the neoliberal university. British Journal of Educational Studies, 60(1), 17-28. Etzkowitz, H. (2004). The evolution of the entrepreneurial university. International Journal of Technology and Globalisation, 1(1), 64-77. Fairclough, N. (2003). Analysing Discourse: Textual Analysis for Social Research. London: Routledge. Fairclough, N. (1993). Critical discourse analysis and the marketization of public discourse: the universities. Discourse & Society, 4, 133-168. Giroux, H. A. (2014). Austerity and the poison of neoliberal miseducation. symploke, 22(1), 9-21. Guzmán-Valenzuela (2016b). Neoliberal discourses and the emergence of an agentic field: The Chilean student movement. In R. Brooks (editor) Student Politics and Protest. London: Routledge & SRHE. Hazelkorn, E. (2015). Rankings and the reshaping of higher education: The battle for world-class excellence. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Huisman, J. & Currie, J. (2004). Accountability in higher education: Bridge over troubled water?. Higher Education, 48(4), 529-551. Simbürger, E. & Neary, M. (2015). Free Education! A ‘Live’ Report on the Chilean Student Movement 2011-2014 - reform or revolution? [A Political Sociology for Action]. Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, 13(2), 150-196. Torres, C. A. & Schugurensky, D. (2002). The Political Economy of Higher Education in the Era of Neoliberal Globalization: Latin America in Comparative Perspective. Higher Education, 43(4), 429-455.
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