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1. 2 The struggle for “fairness” in HE: universities behaving badly? Launch of University of Sussex Centre for Higher Education and Equity Research (CHEER)

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Presentation on theme: "1. 2 The struggle for “fairness” in HE: universities behaving badly? Launch of University of Sussex Centre for Higher Education and Equity Research (CHEER)"— Presentation transcript:

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2 2 The struggle for “fairness” in HE: universities behaving badly? Launch of University of Sussex Centre for Higher Education and Equity Research (CHEER) 15 November 2007 David Watson, Institute of Education, University of London

3 3 The agenda: “developing theory on equity in higher education.” Three cheers: Widening participation Equal opportunities An ethical community

4 4 The University and Society: expectations Conservative and radical Critical and supportive Competitive and collegial Charitable and commercial Autonomous and accountable Excellent and equal Entrepreneurial and caring Certain and provisional Ethical and Technical Traditional and innovative Ceremonial and iconoclastic Local and international Private and public

5 5 Public/private hybrids The armed forces The Church of England The National Trust The NHS Schools BAE systems The university?

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7 7 Privatising education “…what I am referring to here is the production by education and consultancy companies of policy ‘texts’ and policy ideas for and within the state, and the export of ‘statework’ to private providers and ‘agencies’ and the formation and dissemination of policy discourses which take place through the participation of those companies in report writing, evaluations, advice, consultancy and recommendations.” Stephen Ball, Routledge Lecture to the 2007 BERA Annual Conference.

8 8 HE “exceptionalism” “Flatness:” professionally argumentative communities Stability Public purpose/social business

9 9 Academic membership: the “deal” Honesty (inc. scientific procedure) Reciprocity Manners Self-motivation Discipline Respect for the environment Collective agreement

10 10 Higher education and “fairness:” hard questions A positional good Excellence Ethical responsibility

11 11 Hard question 1: a positional good? “You can only enjoy a positional good if others don’t have it,” The Economist “It’s not enough to succeed. Others must fail.” Gore Vidal “The trouble with fairness is that there isn’t enough to go around.” Guy Browning

12 12 Hard question 2: excellence and merit “It is good sense to appoint individual people to jobs on their merit. It is the opposite when those who are judged to have merit of a particular kind harden into a new class without room in it for others….A social revolution has been accomplished by harnessing schools and universities to the task of sieving people according to education’s narrow band of values.” Michael Young, author of “The Rise of the Meritocracy” (1958),

13 13 Hard question 3: the ethical “idea of a university” “The university reveals its own ethical standards in many ways, including its scrupulousness in upholding ethical standards, its decency and fairness in dealing with students and employees, and its sensitivity in relating to the community in which it resides.” Derek Bok, “Our Underachieving Colleges” (2006).

14 14 Universities behaving badly “Like hospitals colleges have generally got the benefit of the doubt on ther question of why they cost so much, and many people still regard them as selfless institutions above and beyond the self-serving rules of the marketplace. But their reputation for probity and virtue is deteriorating fast.” Andrew Delbanco, The New York Times

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16 16 Universities behaving badly (1): students (and their sponsors) Promotion and advice Admissions Merit vs. need Condescension

17 17 Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (1998). Students these days are, in general, nice. I choose the word carefully. They are not particularly moral or noble. Such niceness is a facet of democratic character when times are good. Neither war nor tyranny nor want has hardened them or made demands upon them. The wounds and rivalries caused by class distinction have disappeared along with any strong sense of class…..Students these days are pleasant, friendly and if not great-souled, at least not particularly mean-spirited. Their primary preoccupation is themselves, understood in the narrowest sense (Bloom, 1998: 82-83).

18 18 Universities behaving badly (2): staff Intimidation New managerialism? False consciousness Academic populism

19 19 The question of civility “Being a dean in an arts faculty is very tough. Why? Because colleagues in the social sciences and humanities have been trained to be hyper-critical. Their disciplinary expertise provides them with a toolbox of devices to dissect and unravel the implementation of the best-intended strategic initiatives. They increasingly exercise this talent in extraordinarily difficult funding environments…. They operate in an environment in which a quickly written may generate detailed semiotic analysis and imputation of ill intent. In the academic environment, very clever people may turn their very clever minds to negative ends. We can understand and rationalise this. It reflects in some ways colleagues' passionate commitment to their discipline, to their scholarship and their intellectual autonomy. It reflects the influence of the challenging, under-resourced environment in which we work. But it also may reflect an unwillingness to exercise what John Paul Lederach calls the moral imagination, the ability to empathise, to build peace, in this case with those who do their best to lead.” (Sharon Bell, “The Australian” 12 September 2007)

20 20 Universities behaving badly (3): the local community History Facilities “Studentification” Planning

21 21 Universities behaving badly (4): civil society Self-interest Stewardship

22 22 Universities behaving badly (5): partners and “stakeholders” Nurture and noise Sharing risk The public service alliance

23 23 Universities behaving badly (6): the state (and government) Crusades Truth-telling Do we really want autonomy?

24 24 Universities behaving badly (7): the global community Beyond the bottom line HE and development Environmental responsibility The mirage of “world-classness”

25 25 World-classness Statistics Politics Journalism

26 26 World-classness What counts Research Media interest Graduate destinations Infrastructure International “executive” recruitment What doesn’t count Teaching quality Social mobility Services to business and the community Rural interests Other public services Collaboration The public interest

27 27 Universities behaving badly (8): the sector A “controlled reputational range” “Gangs” Reputation and quality

28 28 Reputation over quality “Institutions such as my own are outposts of serious and bright students of modest or low-income background taught by dedicated faculty who are often respected researchers as well. These institutions are home to a democratic institutional culture simply not possible at elite institutions…It is time that the national agonizing about the income bias of elite institutions shifts its focus to these institutions.” Lawrence Blum, The New York Review of Books.

29 29 A theory of equity in higher education Self-reflection/Self-study, incorporating: outside-in perspectives; Inside-out perspectives; history; social justice and the public interest; the “psychological contract.”

30 Discussion


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