Thursday, 9 July 2009

Change in Higher Education

Foucault tells us that power is "a complex strategic situation in a given society [social setting]". In terms of Higher education it is worth thinking about this.

I find it helpful to think of power as ‘authority’ which in simple terms seems to be power that is in some way legitimate. The question really is whether there is a change in the authority relations within Higher Education and to what extent these are driven by technological changes in the way that Education might be delivered or contrastingly the way that the authority relations drive the choice of technology; in essence what is promoted within a given institution. In order to examine this further though we would need to look at the way that there might be change that is not directly the effect of technology but about a change in the ‘social setting’.

Higher education has, I think, undergone just such a change. Higher education used to be the preserve of the few; I can distinctly remember my first lecture as an undergraduate, from the Vice Chancellor, which started with, ‘You are the few, the happy, select, chosen few, in the top 5%...’ In 1939 about 2% of the age cohort (mostly drawn from the male side) might have gone on to Higher Education…the figure is now nearer 40%? That is in the context of the UK, the contrast in India or China is even greater. This forms part of an historical trend in recent centuries to ever greater levels of formal education. The question is what causes this change.

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