Education plays a major role in shaping up a countries economy and culture globally. It also enables people to prosper and survive in an increasingly complex and changing world. In recent year many government wanted to restructure and deregulate state education system. During 1980's and early 1990's following neoliberal polices in education initially preferred by English speaking countries and later it was encouraged by IMF and World Bank in Latin America and Eastern Europe (Arnove, 1996). The main objective of this individual report is to analysis the merits and demerits of Neo-liberalism on Education system and its current state in United Kingdom.
First, what do we know about neo-liberalism in general? Neo-liberalism is an ideology which minimizes the role of the government and maximizes the private sector in economic policies. In other way it was believed that by transferring the power of economy from public to private sector, the economy of the nation and the efficiency of the government would improve. But what does neo-liberalism mean in education which is a service sector and not considered as a trade or industry.
Neo-liberalism advocates universities to develop courses and programmes more relevant to world of work and changes in the nature of knowledge. The most significant change which underpins neo-liberalism in the twenty-first century is the rise in the importance of knowledge as capital. As Olssen (2005) states, neo-liberalism model in education seen as an input-output system where clear defined objective and result orientation.
Bronwyn and Peter (2007) states in the last 30 years neoliberalism has emerged at different appearances and at different time. Some countries started installed thoroughly over last 20 to 30 years mainly in English speaking countries. In Britain, education sector is going through a major change started during the period of John Major as Prime Minister who initiated the expansion of universities. This had increased students going higher education to 2,287,540 which is 30% high compared to 7% in the early 1960s. The present Labour government claim that it's a matter of social justice to expand universities and students who have the merit to study higher education must be given opportunity to follow their dreams.
Olssen (2005) argues the change in education system following neo-liberalism had transformed university from traditional culture of open intellectual enquiry and debate to emphasis on measured strategic output, quality assurance measures and academic audits. In neo-liberalism university are considered to be the driver for knowledge economy. As Marginson (1995) points out reform in education system had installed competition as a way of increasing productivity, control and accountability. This intern has improved quality of education in universities with better efficiency, rate of innovation, flexibility. Barry et al (1996) states neo-liberalism policies of the state acting now in a positive way by following techniques of auditing, accounting and management which gives way to autonomous from central control.
Callinicos (2006) argues the expansion of British Universities is not to help students to pursue the dreams rather develop them as academic scholars and skilled labour for the need of large MNC's to stay in profit. He also states that neo-liberalism in education have transformed intellectual institutions into businesses earning revenue for the economy of United Kingdom. In an article to Guardian, Tony Blair mentioned that International students contribute over £5 billion each year to UK economy.
Restructuring of universities under neo-liberalism is been carried out for last 20 years in United Kingdom and across the globe. It was started under the regime of Thatcher as a cost cutting exercise to reduce public expenditure and to bring down spending on universities. The restructuring of universities which followed neo-liberalism policies had let to redistribution of power where managers from public and private sector started implementing the new policies like senior academics. Marginson (1999) points out the recent study of “management practice in higher education” in Australia highlight some of its findings from its study that neo-liberalism policies had changed a new type of leadership were vice-chancellors seen as strategic director and change agent. Universities are now run as corporations based on targets, incentives, formulae and plans. And most of the time the vice-chancellors would be an outsider and have no link with the institution.
The change in government in United Kingdom took the neo-liberal polices in education further to a new level as funds allocated per students were reduced considerably. This restructure change has forced both students and staff in their approach towards studying and teaching to a large extent. Traditionally academic are of privileged status with high paid and also benefit from the level of autonomy at work. As Callinicos (2006) points out universities professors and lecturers were denied their prospect of upgrading their knowledge and to meet student education need. The neoliberal education policies had seen pay decline compared to other professionals. In 1981 to 2001 period the salary of academics in Lecturer B scale in old universities rose by 6.1 % above inflation and academics on point 6 of the senior lecturer scale in the new universities by 7.6 % after inflation.
One of the major impacts in education sector for academic was its increase in number of student they need to teach raised to 150% in productivity. The no of students academic teach currently have gone up to twenty one students compared to nine students 30 years back. This is even higher in new universities where first year students are been taught in groups of 500 to 600 by academics.
Another important change came in the form of Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) rating for British higher education in the year 1986 by the Tories. The ratings were used as a method to evaluate the quality of research made by different department in universities. However this rating was used to allocate funds in the name of quality related money for the universities by education bodies in UK.
Universities biggest source of funding comes from this and its critical for them to function as both teaching and research institutions. This means the academics need to be involved in both research and teaching at the same time. This rating system followed by RAE had triggered competitions within the institutions for getting funds for their operations and to carry research in universities.
Universities who are unable to maintain a desired rating look for other ways to attract funds through overseas students. Students come from overseas pay higher tuition fees to do their higher studies, however overseas students who pursue higher education able to acquire awareness on different culture, diverse heritage of human thoughts, creativity and action. On the other side students are burdened with high tuition fee and forced to work for long hours to pay for their living and to manage other expense. It's true as when i joined the university i paid double the tuition fee compared to the local students and had to take up part-time jobs to manage my living expense. This puts a lot of pressure on International student who need to adjust the change in education system, culture followed in United Kingdom. In India, assessment is solely based on examinations and practicals whereas in UK it's based number of other elements like coursework, Group work, projects, presentations and exams.
Majority of the international students come from countries like European Union, US, China, India, Nigeria, however there are huge competitions for international students from other countries like US, Australia and New Zealand. British Universities thus depend on external factors like change in government VISA regulation, International economic crises and development of more robust universities in countries like China.
Now the universities decisions are made not based on intellectual value but on their profitability, in other words seen as a business where department heads operates like a line managers who work based on the targets given by University management, department of education & skills and HEFCE & QAA. This had lead to change in government policies for modelling universities on how business are managed today. Nixon et al (2001) argues policies changed in universities for academics have constructed a new form of identity which match the managerialism followed by corporate in larger MNC's. Simkins (2000) suggest it is perilous to replace traditional bureau-professional organizational order in education to a managerial type.
The government wants the universities to serve their national interest in the global market place. This had resulted in resource per students been reduced and force competition between academics, departments and universities. This method had set off other renowned universities across the globe to practice the change made followed by Britain. In case of economic competition within two companies mean the one which losses would be acquired by its competitor or the firm would become bankrupt and its employees lose their jobs. But in the case of universities if it's not able to compete with other institution means a smaller resource shares from the government and therefore poor infrastructure and the conditions of staff and students. The neoliberal policies have made academics working conditions awful as they need to teach the increasing number of students, perform research which is vital for universities and do administration work as well.
Neo-liberalism has been seen as revival of education system in today's demand in market and for the universities to work along with different trade sector. In neo-liberalism universities are made more productive by implementing targets for getting grants and made them accountable. However these changes are demonstrated at the cost of universities been managed and run like firms focusing on profit or loss rather enables students to acquire broad-based knowledge. This neo-liberal approach in education forced universities to adopt and implement curriculums which are in favour or demanded by the market. If the present approach of universities following neo-liberal policies is not stopped, both academics and students conditions will become worse as the facility in universities and the quality of education will come to a new low. It will not be surprising if academic decide to opt for other jobs if their salary and autonomy in work doesn't improve. In my view, new-liberalism policies for education in United Kingdom haven't improved the quality of education nor the facilities of the institutions rather increased pointless competition between universities for getting grants.
Source: ChinaStones - http://china-stones.info/free-essays/business/countries-economy-and-culture-globally.php