Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community
I'm seeing widespread praise for Richard Hall's analysis of the funding crisis in (British) education. While it seems true that "the impact of crisis is used to justify a tightening and a quickening of the dominant neoliberal ideology," it also seems true that the institutions have brought a lot of it on themselves. "In particular we might now revisit the critical work on the neoliberal university, the student as consumer and the marketisation of HE, in order to critique and negate the path that we are pushed towards."

Hall's analysis also focuses on how we should react. "This work identifies the types of controlled, economically-driven, anti-humanist organisations that will possibly emerge, and the ways in which oppositional, alternative, meaningful social change might be realised." In particular, "Technology should be in the service of an ethic of open learning. Just as technology provides ways to open up access to information, there are technological tools to close it off and reinforce existing barriers and potentially inequalities. Wherever possible investment should encourage open standards and avoid overly restrictive access management."

David Jones argues, "It's the focus on the product that has led university leaders to place less emphasis on the process and the people." Hall writes, "I suggest that a discussion and critique of what higher education is for, and how it is actualised has never been more pressing. I suggest that business-as-usual is not an option... I suggest that we need to offer up alternative views of the idea and forms of higher education, based on shared values beyond acceptance of economic shock doctrines. I suggest that we might focus upon resilience and openness as alternatives, and as cracks in the dominant ideology."

Leigh Blackall also cites James Vernon's post in Inside Higher Ed:

"Before rushing to join the denunciations of our short-sighted and philistine politicians we have to accept that no-one within the English university sector emerges from this process with much dignity. Administrators have grown fat, plumping up their personnel, enlarging their office and buildings, as well as inflating their salaries. Most damagingly they meekly accepted the economistic logics that drove the auditing of productivity and were naive enough to believe that the introduction of fees would supplement, not replace, state funding. They have turned away from the public they are supposed to serve in the quest for new ‘markets': professional schools, overseas students, and creation of empires with institutions that franchise their degrees."

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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Last Updated: Mar 30, 2021 10:30 a.m.