The expensive business of higher education

Table of Contents:

Universities are now required to educate more students to higher levels with fewer subsidies (Altbach et al., 2009). Kuo (2019) points out that higher education is an expensive business and the movement from elite to mass higher education comes with a hefty price tag and increases the competition for scarce public funds. The restructuring of universities has elevated managerialism whilst simultaneously diminishing collegiality. Individual higher education institutions become powerful strategic actors, and they establish a managerial system characterised by the stronger executive powers of the institutional leadership (Teichler 2004). When systemic values are changing, it’s hard to maintain the consistency which defines integrity (Sawyer et al., 2009). Bok (2003) suggests that increased managerialism includes increased secrecy for company-sponsored research, biased or compromised research findings, and treatment of programs such as extension courses as of marginal academic content (Bok 2003).

The restructuring of higher education is prevalent worldwide through cultural diffusion and institutional isomorphism (Lee, 2004). However, Lee (2004) advocates against the notion that all higher education institutions are homogeneous because there are varied responses to global forces depending on the political economy, national culture, and the structural features of the individual education system. Studies of for-profit education indicate that marketisation and privatisation make higher education more efficient, more accountable, and less bureaucratic (Susanti, 2011). Marketisation and privatisation enable universities to allocate the profits made for any chosen purposes and improve the chance of turning scientific discoveries into usefill (and marketable) products and processes (Bok 2003).


This chapter has considered the external (macro-level) forces affecting contemporary' global higher education, encapsulating aspects such as internationalisation, marketisation and privatisation. The growth in communication technology' within an increasingly globalised world, has made it possible for higher education institutions to transcend their national boundaries (The Economist, 2018; Haver-gal, 2015; British Council, 2012). Additionally, universities are becoming exponentially financially' motivated (Havergal, 2015; Yat Wai Lo, 2014; Choa, 2013) with governments and universities (both public and private) attempting to accommodate the increased demand for higher education (Havergal, 2015; Oke-bukola, 2013). The last decade saw an explosion of private institutions deemed essential in providing more higher education opportunities as existing higher education institutions are increasingly dependent on funds from a combination of sources to compensate for the decline experienced in state funding (Nizar, 2015; Choa, 2013).

The relatively' new performance driven culture of higher education is based on increased accountability' to both global and local financial actors. Multiple governance strategies are enforced to serve local agendas and global aspirations (Nizar, 2015; Bok, 2003). The latter are increasingly characterised by' the rise of higher education ranking systems (HERS). Many regard HERS as the latest manifestation of the neoliberal corporatisation of higher education, in which market forces increasingly govern research and teaching adding to the commodification of knowledge and the relentless pressure to produce (Castree & Sparke, 2000).

Chapter 3 will consider the history' and expansion of rankings initially in the United States and United Kingdom from 1962 until the present day. It will trace the development of HERS from their domestic origins to their global proliferation.


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