Higher education across the world is in dire crisis. Educationists and intellectuals have been crying foul since the 1970s post-Nixon and the beginning of the Thatcher era in USA and UK respectively. However, not all is doomed, as many would have it. Rather, new models of pedagogy are transforming the public educational spheres like never before! Resistance to existing models based solely on monetary incentives has developed through venues such as the virtual classroom, MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) for the general populace, the constant open source information available through the internet and an active dialogue between the human, the natural and the technological sciences. Here, a look is taken into both sides of the topic under discussion to arrive at certain cautious conclusions.
The Crisis: General Ruminations
This section examines both sides of the issue under consideration. The crisis as it stands and the ‘crisis’ as a watershed moment in the history of educational and social changes.
The crisis as it stands:
Many prominent educationists have been rallying for a long time against educational models post-1970s. The present crisis of higher education is a complex result of a number of factors. Reductionist government and corporate policies that only seek the bottom-line have gone into the degeneration of the once glorious, enlightened and liberal universities and educational institutions of the Anglophone world. In Australia, as much as in the US and the UK, ruthless and unrestrained corporatocracies and elite-oligarchies, seeking to augment their market value, have exponentially invested in both public and private universities. With most of these investments made as a result of stakes that seek to promote and augment the neoliberal job market, education has been reduced to a mere commodity in many universities in the Anglophone world that either self-indulges with textual studies in the ivory tower of the human sciences or which seeks job incentives through utility-based courses.
In the process, while vested interests of corporate lobbies are addressed, the public educational system, that once had the generous backing of humane and learned charities, becomes more disenfranchised in a post-recessive economy. More privatization takes place at the cost of an ever-increasing and monstrous student-debt and at that of student learning, careers and lives. While the elite keeps the conforming meritorious on board, the vast majority has to go without any kind of institutional education. Competition becomes a hair-splitting race to an uncertain end. The quality of research is often neglected due to powerful lobbies that promote their own brand of research. The overall structure of the liberal educational system is demeaned and degenerates.
The ‘crisis’ as a process of transformation
On the other hand, the present ‘crisis’, when viewed through the lens of a capitalist economy is a part and parcel of the latter. Ebbs and highs are a ‘normal’ part of a banking styled economy that depends indefinitely on speculative financing. While a recession might bring in the worst part of this kind of economy, the best is often realized through means that give rise to technological wonders such as the Internet. Transformation being an integral part of a changing process, the all-encompassing capitalist system also has given rise to the resistance alternative such as the virtual realm, in which peoples often have direct access to the means of capitalist production and can reach-out to billions. Virtual classrooms, MOOCs, interactive gaming and game development, open source information and software development and the vast number of informative and educational videos via YouTube, Vimeo etc. have given rise to alternate means of resistance. They have given sections of the masses with direct or indirect access to the Internet, a participatory function in educational processes and in the means of production.
Besides, there is the rise of an active collaboration between the arts and the sciences in which academicians from various disciplines bring their research in dialogue with each other. New paradigms of conceptual development are formed which gives rise to entirely new epistemological models based on interdisciplinary research and new technologies such as the World Wide Web and its assemblage of networks.
Situations of the crisis
In this section, situations in USA, the UK and Australia will be examined detailing both sides of the discussion under concern for each country.
The Situation in Australia
Here, the situation in Australia will be discussed both for and against the crisis theory.
For the Crisis Theory:
- The crisis in Australian higher education is principally due to certain aspects of neoliberal policies that have not only disenfranchised many sections of society by commodifying education and reducing them to competitive firms.
- Changes, since the 1980s have brought about these policies that have further reduced central control on universities and fees, have increased each year as per market demands.
- While the alliance of corporate and the state has transmuted the excellent institutions of higher learning in Australia into mercantile firms, the shared base of higher education for the knowledge enterprise and growth has gradually eroded.
- Emphasis on individual achievements and competition, instead of the unique knowledge base shared by research institutions have led to the market-driven forces to takeover. Previously, institutions of higher learning were seen as a shared knowledge base for social growth. Since the 1980s, state policies opened the doors for corporate takeover.
- The emphasis on the growth and success of a few led to the gradual decline of the knowledge society as a whole, including the universities, which now catered for the financially affluent.
- Post-Recession, the universities have taken huge hits giving rise to cuts in the arts and humanities both in departments and in their overall financial management.
Against the Crisis Theory:
- Corporate takeover and privatization are not necessarily negative phenomena, as the more the Universities became advertized, the more people came to know about them internationally.
- It opened the doors for a globalized economy that resulted in students from underdeveloped countries getting the opportunity to prove their merit.
- Market-driven forces often forge public opinion and are not always about the bottom-line. Ethical entrepreneurs have long invested in universities and their objective was and remains uplifting society through each individual so that no one gets left behind.
- The shared knowledge base now disseminated through successful individuals working for the uplifting of society as a whole.
- Corporations invested equally in technology and scholarships, leading to greater domestic and international participation.
- Crests and Troughs are common in capitalist societies and financially affluent times soon reappear.
- New technologies such as the Internet lead to development of societies as a whole, since now top professors deliver their lectures through virtual classrooms and MOOCs.
The Situation in USA
Here also, the situation in the USA will be discussed by referring to both sides of the statement under consideration.
For the Crisis Theory:
- The educational crisis situation in the USA is the result of a number of complex factors in which economy, race, class and ethnic origins intersect and play important roles in their own right.
- Student debt has increased exponentially in the post-Recessive economy as more learners are now burdened with loans and many from hardest-hit universities are unable to find jobs that pay regularly with benefits such as tenure-track jobs.
- Racial inequality has led to segregation of disadvantaged minorities whose education has become a challenge for American societies.
- Ethnic and class differences have led to the financially marginalized sections of society to go without education.
- Corporate takeover and lobbying has transmuted many universities into a commodified existence.
- Post-Recession, never has smaller public universities and institutions been in dearth of funds.
Against the Crisis Theory:
- However, the US also has a strong yet flexible constitution that allows civic and public bodies and institutions to rally for their rights and due funding. It is this structure that allows a certain degree of public autonomy from lobbying and corporate takeover.
- With the arrival of the Internet and its social media services, mass educational services have undergone radical changes with the virtual classroom and webinars becoming an integral part of higher learning. Besides, many recognized universities also hold MOOCs for the general populace.
- Privatization and Corporate takeover has yielded research and funding developments in some fields such as the natural and technological sciences.
- Many learners and activists have turned to the Internet for furthering their knowledge from the creative commons. Armed with this knowledge, they arrange for peaceful civic demonstrations against ruthless statist tyranny and corporate hegemony.
- There are many learners who have benefitted from the Internet and have arranged their own crowd-funded projects for the benefit of public universities.
- Research is better than ever at recognized and top universities in the USA as collaborations continue between disciplines and faculties.
The Situation in UK
Here, the situation in the UK will be discussed with close reference to the crisis theory.
For the Crisis Theory:
- Since the policies of the Thatcher regime, the UK has given way to neoliberal policies and the educational system became more and more stringent as fees were hiked each year and international students had and still have to pay way more in tuition without due funding.
- Neoliberal policies have given rise to corporatization that has led to education being limited for the select few in post-Recession times.
- Students have been indebted with loans and have resorted to self-dehumanizing means to repay them.
- Neoliberalism and the advertising of universities worldwide have caused rich, but low merit students to enter the academy, leading to decline in the standard of education.
- Many arts and humanities departments have closed down in a post-recessive economy.
Against the Crisis Theory:
- The UK has benefitted a lot from neoliberal policies as they have expanded the lesser-known universities internationally and brought in a lot of revenue.
- The UK has become one of the elite providers of education in the Anglophone world with these policies as international students brought in extra revenue that contributed to the failing economies of the 1980s.
- The UK has also recovered post-Recession and the academic job market is at a high.
- Much collaboration between the arts and the sciences has taken place resulting in bleeding-edge research from previously lesser-known universities.
- The doors to globalization have opened leading to encounters of new cultures and giving rise to cultural empathy.
There are both sides of the coin in the crisis theory. Although the vested interests of a corporate hegemony might not always stand universities in good stead, they also lead to expansion and a knowledge-driven globalized economy with more opportunities in multicultural societies.
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