EDEV_503 Week 1_3

Thanks for your thought-provoking comment. I agree with your recommendation to properly evaluate merits and demerits of any proposals.

I would like to reframe your first point slightly to reflect the situation as I see it. You say that “we all agree that higher education needs to change in order to adjust to the new political, social and economic conditions”. One key issue underpinning this week’s discussions has been the direction and the directors of change. In your phrasing, HE changes from within deliberately to position itself better vis-a-vis the external world. HE is viewed as antithetical to society, standing outside it, i.e. the ivory tower. Another view is that HE is one branch of society, whose actions shape and are shaped by the external environment, i.e. one apex of the triple helix. I think that both perspectives are current, and from this, tensions about change can be seen from the differences between the perspectives.

I’d like to demonstrate just one–but an extreme and present one–point. You say that “we all agree”. The helix apex view indicates that without agreement change is problematic. However, what kind of change is necessary? Change for whose benefit? How will this change be assessed? And so on.

Paulo Friere’s main point in his Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1971/2005) is that once the oppressed become the leaders of a new regime, they must not simply copy the methods of oppression that they were subject to. True human cognitive development demands that the erstwhile oppressed recognise the nature of the “dialectical relation between the subjective and the objective. Only in this interdependence is an authentic praxis possible, without which it is impossible to resolve the oppressor-oppressed contradiction” (p. 51). In other words, when the oppressed are out of power, they observe the mechanics of power, i.e. the subjective–that which subjugates. When they achieve a position in power, they must recognise that if they apply those older mechanics, they will merely be perpetuating what they were subject to. Being better requires understanding that, and subsequently objectifying those mechanics. Through the process of objectification, the former oppressed can develop better methodologies of government that do not continue the subjugation of other weak.

The rise of managerialism in HE (Altbach, 2000; Fook & Gardner, 2007; Sweeting, 2007) can be seen through critical theory as an agent of oppression that maintains the same techniques and methods that the oppressor have used against the oppressed historically. In this view, the massification of HE (Trow, 2007) has placed the power to educate in instruments over which the state previously had no control. To put the matter in vernacular speech, one could make the argument that when HE was limited to the 5% and those 5%s were the elite, there was no serious problem. Now that knowledge is being opened up to near universal access, governments cannot risk losing power. The solution is to withhold funds and to force the power out of the faculties and into often government-approved managers.

The question of ‘whose change’ is a very relevant one, and one I’m sure not all agree on for various reasons.


Altbach, P. G. (2000). What Higher Education Does Right: A Millennium Accounting. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 32(4), 52–52. http://doi.org/10.1080/00091380009601750

Fook, J., & Gardner, F. (2007). Practising critical reflection. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Freire, P. (2005). Pedagogy of the Oppressed (30th Anniv). New York and London: Continuum.

Sweeting, A. (2007). Comparing Times. In M. Bray, B. Adamson, & M. Mason (Eds.), Comparative Education Research: Approaches and Methods (pp. 167–193). Hong Kong: Springer/ The Comparative Education Research Centre University of Hong Kong.

Trow, M. (2007). Reflections on the transition from elite to mass to universal access: Forms and phases of higher education in modern societies since WW11. In J. J. F. Forest & P. G. Altbach (Eds.), International Handbook of Higher Education: Part 1 Global themes and contemporary challenges (pp. 243–280). Dordrecht: Springer.

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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