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UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM

POLSIS, School of Government & Society (College of Social Sciences) Student ID No. (srn): Programme of study: Year of study: Module title: Module banner code: Module leader: Seminar teacher: Submission date: Assignment title: Extension: Extension approved by: 1117509 SPT 1 Social Theory: Knowledge and Critique Justin Cruickshank 13/01/2014 Is the neoliberal university still a university yes date approved: David White new date: 27/01/2014

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Is the neoliberal university still a university? This paper will be divided into two substantive sections. In the first we outline the ideals of higher education (hereafter HE), focusing on the thought of Dewey and Adorno. These two thinkers in their approach to education - and their concern with the democratic status of society - bear many resemblances. The educational ideals which they advocate bear similarity with a rich discourse on the public role of the university. Furthermore, in Adorno's contrasting of the ideal education to 'halfeducation', we will find a useful manner in which to frame the second section, where we assess whether neoliberal reforms have fundamentally transformed the role of the University. Then we turn to the state of the UK's HE sector, in order to observe the effects of neoliberal reforms. We will consider how education is seen in a predominantly individuated manner, and that the introduction of market forces has undermined the wider, public role of the University. When the current state of HE in the UK is considered in light of Dewey and Adorno's theories of education, we will be forced to conclude that the contemporary neoliberal university does not resemble a public institution; advocated here to be integral to safeguarding the democratic status of society, and acting as an agent of social justice. As a consequence, we will find the neoliberal university should not be considered a university in the sense advocated here. The Ideals of the University While the university has a rich and extensive tradition, Collini (2012:23) explains it is "essentially a nineteenth century creation", whose founding is symbolically located in the influence of Alexander Von Humboldt. It consisted of a "liberal education with advanced scholarly and scientific research" (ibid). The 'Humboldtian ideal' revolved around a cultured - or public - education (bildung), with a civic emphasis; education was not merely a 'private' benefit to the individual, but bore a wider , social component (Collini, 2012; Sorkin, 1983). The university served a cultural, public function, therefore Humboldt proposed education should not be viewed instrumentally; society's interests are "best met by educating individuals to develop their unique characters rather than by subjecting them to a stultifying vocational training" (Sorkin,1983:65). The needs of society should not be met directly through state policy, rather through an open-ended approach to education (ibid:64). The university was to be a community whose foundation lay "in a capacity to share in a process of knowledge" (Readings, 1996:123), extending beyond the academy, thus enriching public discourse. This public function of the University led him to advocate shifting financial responsibility for HE onto the state, as it would "foster better, more 'enlightened' and 'moral' citizens" (Sorkin, 1983:65). Moreover, Humboldt believed the importance of research alongside teaching in cultivating a community which would instil civic habits in the individual. This approach is reflected in many Page 3 of 16

accounts, most saliently Kerr's notion of the 'multiversity'; HE was to be a plural sector, with teaching and research encouraged in a community which would make wider cultural contributions, advancing society's 'trained intelligence' (Holmwood, 2011b). Because of this public benefit, HE should be supported financially by the state. This public concern should be viewed as a staple feature of discourses on the ideals of education, arguing for more than a merely vocational - or functional - role. As Holmwood explains, for more than fifty years "there has been broad political consensus on the value of higher education" (2011a:3), whereby education at secondary level, and then HE, were seen as 'social rights' necessary for the realization of other liberal democratic ideals (ibid). Dewey, education and democracy Dewey (1927) was writing at 'the birth' of the multiversity (Collini, 2012). Central to his account was a political concern with the public sphere. Dewey argued the corrosive effect of corporate interests on democracy, alongside the ideology of individualism, were undermining the associative nature of the human condition, leading to undermining democratic conditions through an 'eclipse of the public'. The mass media acts to distract individuals; "the political elements in the constitution of the human being, those having to do with citizenship, are crowded to one side" (Dewey 1927:139). Consequently the public loses it capacity to represent itself, increasing inequality through a polarization of class interests. Dewey was concerned at the undemocratic effect this could have on society, whereby an economic class are able to instrumentally draw on expertise in order to further their own interests, at the cost of the wider public:

No government by experts in which the masses do not have the chance to inform the experts as to their needs can be anything but an oligarchy managed in the interests of the few. And the enlightenment must proceed in ways which forces the administrative specialists to take account of these needs. The world has suffered more from leaders and authorities than from the masses. (Dewey, 1927:208)

For Dewey, the problem of the public (and thus democracy) is the improvement of the public's 'collective intelligence' in order to facilitate informed debate; expert knowledge should not be used instrumentally in the interests of a specific group, but rather, for the wider interests of 'The Great Community' (Dewey, 1927; Holmwood, 2011b). Central to achieving this aim was an education which fostered habits conducive to a public life, therefore HE was to play an important role (Boisvert, 1998). Page 4 of 16

Dewey recognises the explicitly social aspect of the human condition; the point of education was not simply instrumental preparation for the immediate needs of the state - such as economic imperatives - for it was not to be understood in purely functionalist terms. Following Humboldt he rejected an instrumental approach to education, arguing it to be 'absolutist' in its methods, thus "strengthening the reign of dogma" (Dewey, 1927:201) whereby expert knowledge could be used instrumentally, attenuating the public's democratic role. Alternatively, Dewey proposes an openended 'experimental' method towards education and inquiry, not directed by external interest, which he argues will enrich the democratic culture of a society. This emphasis on autonomy from social demands mirrors Humboldt's assertion against state interference (Sorkin, 1983). Similarly, he advocates a place for the University in the promotion in "the inculcation of a democratic character, not just training citizens' minds" (Boisvert, 1998:98). Because of this public role of the University, Dewey considered it a site of social justice, enabling the public to better realize its democratic potential. Consequently, he resisted attempts to reduce education to vocational training, as it would exacerbate class differences; for wherever exists polarization, fixed distinctions, and few shared interests between social groups, "the ideal of democracy is farthest from realization" (Boisvert, 1998:107). For these reasons, we can see a justification for public funding of HE; public benefits accrue beyond the individual, moreover because of its democratizing potential, education should be financially supported to enable 'the great community' to emerge.

Outlining Dewey's position has helped us to further identify some key features of the ideals of the University. The importance of a non-instrumental approach to the University, emphasising a more substantive education, is seen as having a public role in fostering a greater democratic culture in the interests of greater social justice. Dewey held the belief that an informed citizenry was "the best assurance that democracy would not degenerate into dictatorship or authoritarian regimes" (Giroux & Aronowitz, 2003:8). The University had a critical function in inculcating democratic habits conducive to the realization of the "Great Community" (Dewey, 1927:143), and thus resisting the dangers posed by the 'Eclipse of the Public'. This argument bears a deeply normative justification for supporting the university as a public institution, thus supporting Humboldt's argument for a role for the state in supporting this institution financially. We now conclude our exposition on the ideals of the university, by turning to Adorno.

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Adorno, instrumental rationality and half-education The culture industry thesis (Adorno and Horkheimer, 1997:120-176; Adorno, 1991) reflects Dewey's concern of the public being eclipsed by the interests of economic elites. While Adorno's writings on the culture industry are pessimistic - we see little hope of realizing Dewey's 'Great Community' when he focused on education, we see many similarities with the ideals argued for here. Moreover, his theory of half-education (1993) will be shown useful for framing the analysis of the condition of the neoliberal university today. Adorno argued that at the very least, education should fulfil "the basic conditions required for a democracy" (in Adorno and Becker, 1999:23), however, his theory of half-education goes further. Adorno perceives education as the best way to foster "thought, critique and resistance necessary for freedom" (Tettlebaum , 2008:144), and thus democracy. He understands education in terms of the notion bildung; following Humboldt the term illustrates "the sense in which culture can be closely linked to the idea of education or improvement" (Thomson, 2006:73). He puts forth a notion of a cultured, civic education which would enrich public life, and thus democracy. Like Dewey, this was part of a societal process of enlightenment which enhances democracy and increases social justice. Furthermore, his view of instrumental rationality undermines public culture reflects Dewey's concerns with the public in eclipse. He therefore contrasts bildung with halbbildung in two senses; firstly, in terms of public culture, secondly, on the individual level. The university is therefore argued to have a central role in cultivating bildung.

Reflecting Dewey's concerns with the threat posed by an economic elite, he warns of the danger of the capitalist mass media, and an instrumental, economistic ethos (instrumental rationality) which it ideologically promotes (Adorno and Horkheimer, 1997; Adorno, 1991). These have grave political implications, "giving rise to a widening uneducated and uncultured population" (Cho, 2009:86). The result of half-education on the public is "[culture] overcome by fetishism of commodities" (Adorno 1993:28). The effect of this is most striking in the 'massifying' effect of the culture industry, which reifies the thing-like nature of commodity fetishism into a 'common sense' worldview. The effect on public culture is grave, for the half educated, unlike merely the uneducated, "hypostatize limited knowledge as truth" (Adorno and Horkheimer, 1997:196), and thus are at once "intellectually pretentious and barbarically anti-intellectual" (Adorno, 1993:36) - written as if certain Vice Chancellors were in mind. It is thus more easily manipulated by the authority of experts, which in Adorno's case leads to the perpetuation of class inequality. One can consider current debates on HE - narrowly framed in terms of economics - as a symptom of this. For Adorno, as with Dewey, mass

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culture attenuates the public's efficacy by undermining accessibility and its 'collective intelligence', propelling it towards the level of half-education.

While Adorno's prognosis in public culture is pessimistic, he argues the HE has a vital role in preserving the notion of bildung, and inculcating it throughout culture (Stojanov, 2013). Retorting on university reforms along lines of instrumental rationality, Adorno argued instead for reform which does not "lead by the nose" rather, "gives priority to free and independent thought" (Adorno, 2000:5). He rejects the reduction of education to what is socially useful, which he terms 'practicism'; from which "the whole of modern positivism has its historical origin." (Adorno, 2000:55). Adorno associates this with the Weberian notion of instrumental rationality. Arguing against this approach, he favours substantive rationality; "the rationality of values, ends and possible attitudes towards life" (Held, 1980:67). Education as bildung should therefore be associated with substantive rationality; it reflects the ideals of the University as a public institution which goes beyond an instrumental approach, fostering an informed demos and thus democratically enhancing society. Adorno (1993) sees bildung in dialectical tension with its opposite, and it is the political imperative of the university to contribute towards ensuring society does not submit totally to instrumental exigencies, which vitiate democracy, freedom and autonomy. The threat of half-education is the instrumentalising of values, into reified, 'thing-like' commodities whose only value is economic. For Adorno, the main aim of education is towards a self-reflexive maturity which can resist the reification of consciousness which mass culture promotes. The ideal of education is to enhance democracy against the threat of fascism (Adorno, 1998). However, like Dewey sees with democracy, bildung is an ideal never fully achieved, in dialectical tension with its antithesis (Adorno, 1993; Stojanov, 2013). The aim of education is to foster, on both individual and public levels, a critical reflexivity toward instrumental rationality, in order to resist its effects on society. In summary, both Dewey and Adorno recognise the threat an instrumental approach can have. In Dewey's notion of the 'absolutist method' we see similarities to Adorno's instrumental rationality (associated with half-education). Moreover in their alternatives, the experimental method and the full education of bildung, both writers recognise the threat that commercial mass media has on the interests of the public, vitiating its capacity to represent itself. Both point to the University as a site of critique for these tendencies within society, and furthermore, advocate an open-ended approach to learning, which is not 'lead by the nose'. Collini (2012:26) agrees with this assessment of education, arguing that open-ended enquiry has its 'own logic';

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the imperative to pursue the fuller understanding of any subject-matter once it was established as part of an academic discipline constantly tended to exceed and subvert the imperative to meet immediate of local needs. This tendency within the academy represents a dialectical tension, which we can see reflects education (bildung) in dialectical tension with half-education. This can also be observed in Dewey's normative argument to promote an open-ended, experimental approach to education and inquiry. Therefore, education should be seen as being a dialectic between instrumental and substantive rationalities. In the next section, we will make our assessment of the neoliberal university based on this dialectic of bildung-halbbildung. It is important to note that HE has changed significantly since the inception of the university. The ideals which Adorno and Dewey point to do not represent an ahistorical doctrine, rather, are aimed at fostering self-reflexive skills on the individual level, and a culture conducive to public debate - thus ensuring greater inclusion. Moreover, by understanding the ideals of education as characterised by substantive rationality, we have a means to argue for "the highest aspirations and ideals" (Veblen in Collini 2012:86) of social justice, something the neoliberal agenda considers a "category mistake" (Swift, 2006:19), and thus cannot be appealed to. Following Dewey's lead, Holmwood (2011b) argues HE has a distinctive 'social mission' in reducing social polarization - and therefore should be an agent for social justice. To this end, he advocates a role for the state in publicly supporting HE; for in fostering a climate of open-ended enquiry, it enhances the democratic status of society. Moreover, it is better equipped to generate forms of knowledge which go beyond the logic of immediacy, and better equips society to resist the atavism which both Dewey and Adorno forewarned as a consequence of an attenuated public sphere. Having outlined the argument for a public conception of the university, we now turn to the contemporary state of HE in the UK. Assessing the neoliberal university. Since the 1980s successive governments in the UK have implemented what can be understood as part of a globalized, neoliberal agenda. The public sector has been subject to a series of reforms, for which HE has not been immune; they set forth a trajectory which has eroded educational values associated with the ideals of the University, emphasising the value of education in narrowly economic terms (Collini, 2012; Holmwood, 2011a; McArthur, 2011; Levidow, 2006). Neoliberalism has reframed understandings of the public good, leading to a fundamental transformation of the state-funded public sector, and has attenuated the democratic status of the public sphere. Levidow (2006:156) explains,

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todays neoliberal project undoes past collective gains, privatises public goods, uses state expenditure to subsidise profits, weakens national regulations, removes trade barriers, and so intensifies global market competition. By fragmenting people into individual vendors and purchasers, neoliberalism imposes greater exploitation upon human and natural resources.

The rationale of neoliberalism could be described as 'market fundamentalism' - the dogma that market forces are the most efficient means of providing all goods (Steadman Jones, 2012; Levidow, 2006). It is an ideological belief in the efficiency of markets, leading to increased concern with 'performance' - used solely to judge the value of the public sector. Curtis (2013) argues neoliberal ideology has assumed a hegemonic status, where the 'privatisation of life' has created a new 'common sense'. This robs the capacity to recognise the public dimensions of social life emphasised by Dewey and Adorno, and represents the dogma of 'absolutist logic' we have associated with instrumental rationality. Steadman Jones agrees, arguing that despite poverty and social inequality in Britain being at their highest levels for over a century, politicians and officials "operated as if under a spell ...They found it increasingly impossible to think differently about economy and society" (Steadman Jones, 2012:333). The spell of the neoliberal ideology, in keeping with the tenets of halfeducation, appears to have reified "limited knowledge as truth" (Adorno and Horkheimer, 1997:196). It has instilled what Fisher describes as a 'business ontology', eliminating any

understanding of value in the ethical sense. Today, it appears "simply obvious that everything in society, including healthcare and education, should be run as a business" (2009:17). This elimination of ethical value - which Collini (2012) also highlights - should be understood as the triumph of instrumental rationality over the substantive alternative, and as Steadman Jones highlights above, has led to increased social polarization, thus impairing the democratic status of the UK.

Collini argues that in the years prior to the neoliberal agenda the ideals of the University (as serving a social mission) "remained largely intact" (2012:33). This can be observed in the Robbins Report (1963), which prefigured the mass increase in access to HE. While the report recognised the economic contribution the University made, it was equally concerned with its 'social mission'; the enrichment of culture, and a concern to break class inequality "by widening access and integrating public secondary education with a system of public higher education" (Collini, 2012:6). In this sense it can be seen as adhering to the ideals of the university adopted here. Even the later Dearing Report (1997) - which led to the introduction of 'top up' fees - adhered to these values, whereby the public benefit of education was seen to "extend beyond those individuals" (Holmwood, 2011a:9).

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Consequently, student fees were seen as merely a "supplement to publicly funded higher education" (bid). Whereas in the era of Robbins and Kerr HE was seen as largely a public good, under the auspices of neoliberalism, education is increasingly conceived as a private good (Collini, 2012; Holmwood, 2011b) - seen most clearly in the arguments of the Browne Report (2010). This clearly poses a threat to the social mission of the university, for it reflects a dominant discourse which "tends to be structured so that the non-economic is equated with the private, the economic with the public" (Collini, 2012:99), leading to massive withdrawals of public funding.

The 'top up fee' approach, implemented as part of the Dearing Report's recommendations, was concerned with the effect student debt would have on the social mission of reducing inequality. Therefore debt accrued by students was only intended to be a supplement. However, it contributed to an entrenchment of class divisions (Levidow, 2006). McKay and Rowlingson explain that student debt acts as a deterrent to students from working class backgrounds, and that the policies adopted in the wake of the Browne Report "signal a departure from the goals of social rights" (2011:106) which were central to educational reform in the past, and key to university's being understood as an agent of social justice. Moreover, the Browne Report recommended differentiated student fees which Oxford's VC argued should be raised to 16000 (Garner, 2013) - exacerbating access and inclusivity issues, and adversely affecting social justice. The variation of cost is likely to entrench class divisions further, with elite institutions attracting predominantly upper class students (Holmwood, 2011a; 2011b; Mckay and Rowlingson, 2011; Reay, 2011; Roberts, 2010). This leads Holmwood to conclude, "for the first time, the university is being addressed as an instrument to extend social inequality" (2011b:12-3). Clearly, the intention of these reforms is to undermine the notion of the university as a public good. Additionally, we can see that the social mission which Dewey and Holmwood argue for, is lost as HE is subverted from an agent of social justice, to an instrument extending inequality.

More than a decade before the Browne Report, Readings (1999:32) warned that the effect of economistic-allly-minded reforms on HE threatens its role to facilitate a democratic culture;

The social responsibility of the University, its accountability to society, is solely a matter of services rendered for a free. Accountability is a synonym for account in the 'the academic lexicon'.

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He forewarned that the University "is on its way to becoming a corporation" (1999:22), concerned more with profit than its social mission. The Brown Report aimed to accelerate this process, transforming all public funding in non-earmarked areas, "into funding by student fees supported by a system of loans" (Holmwood, 2011a:9-10). McArthur (2010; 2011) comments critically on the 'functionalist' manner HE is narrowly understood, solely in terms of its contribution to economic growth, adversely effecting its role in social justice. When the cultural or the social are invoked, it is only as a veneer to mollify the reductionist logic. Readings reference to 'accountability' also alludes to measures such as the Research Assessment Exercise and its successor, the Research Excellence Framework; used to assess 'research quality' and award funding accordingly (Shaw, 2013). Fisher (2009) argues these signify neoliberalism's bureaucratic logic (or 'market Stalinism'). The representation of performance subsumes actual performance; institutions alter their policies reflecting this, leading to "more effort goes into ensuring [performance] is reported correctly than actually improving [performance] (2009:42). Collini explains these "regimes of assurance" (2012:108) have caused institutions to prioritise research over teaching, to the detriment of the student's experience. Readings (1996) argues that the emphasis on 'excellence' is a consequence of the increasingly corporatized university, acting as a floating signifier in a regime of discipline. It also contributes toward league tables which Collini (2012) argues are largely vacuous exercises; used largely to attract more fee-paying 'customers'. This has led to a "Champions League syndrome" (ibid:108) affecting the sector - a particularly apt turn of phrase considering David Eastwood described the University of Birmingham's recent award "was a bit like winning the Champions League" (Eastwood in University of Birmingham, 2013). These regimes of accountability have undermined one of the core functions of the university - teaching - and accordingly, should be considered as revealing a strong tendency toward halbbildung in the area of personal development.

The issues we have highlighted suggest the university's social role has been recast in primarily instrumental terms, and in that sense, reflect the critiques of Dewey and Adorno. The instrumental and individuated manner in which education is understood under the neoliberal regime, can be seen in the commodified manner in which a proponent of the Browne report describes what a university student receives:

a high-quality product, provision of skills and experiences that will directly benefit the student, and adding real value to them as individuals as they go through life. Smith, 2011:135 emphasis added

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The neoliberal approach to education appears very far from the ideals favoured here, suggesting HE has progressively gravitated toward half-education. Reflecting on the transformation of the University, Brown et al remark "higher education has become a global business" (2011:95). Indeed, when the extent of the search for funding avenues become as innovative as Birmingham University's (see figure), it is difficult to distinguish universities from other businesses. This raises a problem for its role as a democratic institution. There is a fundamental issue with the manner in which HE has been reframed as a purely private good. If we recall Dewey and Adorno's views on education, we notice how they stressed the contribution of education in a civic, as well as individual manner. Both saw the social element of HE as crucial in countering the instrumentalising tendencies capitalism economy imposes upon the public sphere. The university was seen as a countermeasure to the democratic threat that an economic class posed, by enhancing the 'spirit' or collective intelligence' and thus prevent the public becoming eclipsed. But when the benefits of HE - and indeed all social life (Curtis, 2013) - become seen as strictly individuated and private, we lose from the public lexicon the means with which to argue for its very existence. What is at stake, Collini writes;

is whether universities in the future are to be thought of as having a public cultural role partly sustained by public support, or whether we move further towards re-defining them in terms of a purely economistic calculation of value and a wholly individualist conception of 'consumer satisfaction'. (2012:190)

Conclusion In this paper we began by outlining an argument for a social role for the university. Building on the work of Dewey and Adorno, it was argued education has a benefit enjoyed beyond the individual, therefore should be seen as a necessary condition of a democratic society. In considering the critiques they make of an instrumental approach to HE, we established the need for an education predicated on substantive rationality - an open-ended 'experimental' approach, sensitive to the myriad of values part-and-parcel of associated life. By elaborating on Adorno's theory of halfeducation, we framed our analysis of the current conditions of HE. Focusing on the effect of marketization upon how universities operate, we were able to identify the neoliberal rationality as instrumental, and suggests the university is gravitating towards half-education. Moreover, by considering the impact upon social justice that the increased student fees are likely to have, we identified a fundamental challenge to the notion that the university is a public institution, recognisable for its 'social mission' in furthering equality, and thus greater levels of democracy. For

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these reasons, we must conclude that the neoliberal university operates along thoroughly instrumental lines. This has had two consequences associated with half-education. Firstly, the quality of education is likely to fall, due to the unceasing pressures placed on academics. Secondly, as the university increasingly becomes a tool extending social inequality, we see public culture leaning increasingly towards half-education. As a consequence of these findings, we conclude that the neoliberal university is no longer a university, in the public sense of the term.

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Appendix:

Figure:- Photograph taken from a recent University of Birmingham brochure, suggesting students, not content with paying tuition fees for the rest of their lives, can now continue to pay the institution after they die.

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