Commercialisation & Commodification of Higher Education - Vol 8

Since neoliberalism came to dominate economic and development thinking in the 1980s, the mainstream thinking and planning in the higher education sector around the globe has been driven by neoliberalism. Higher education is often treated as a commodity that can be traded on the marketplace and sold to those who have money to pay for it.

Throughout the world, many higher education institutions see profits, market share and rankings as the main drivers of their management focus. Knowledge production and research have been heavily commodified and commercialised and are seen as capital and products instead of public goods. For many institutions, commercial gain is the key motivation for internationalisation, leading institutions into global expansion driven by profits. This is often at the expense of contextual relevance and quality.

Before the emergence of commercialisation and commodification, higher education space was limited and reserved primarily for the elites and well-off members of the middle class. Things started changing with massification of higher education, when universities expanded their capacity to be able to accommodate more students. In most cases, the cost of massification was not absorbed by governments but by the ‘consumers.’ Many universities around the world had no option but to increase/introduce student fees, commercialise and commodify their teaching and research and in this way expand their capacity.

The 2016 NMMU Family Week Colloquium will explore the following questions:

  • Is neoliberalism influencing international collaboration in higher education? Is this influence good or bad?

  • If commercial gain is the key motivation and/or driver of internationalisation and international collaboration, how does this influence the role and effectiveness of higher education in addressing global issues?

  • In the age of neoliberal dominance, can we expect higher education institutions to think collectively about solving pressing global challenges, especially the challenges that do not necessarily affect [at present] the powerful?

  • How can we bring the local and global together when many cannot afford to be part of the process? Will those who cannot afford simply be excluded?

  • Are there alternatives to commodification and commercialisation of higher education?

  • Can we find a way to balance the need to make [some] profit necessary to continue to provide quality education and research and collaborate across the world while ensuring that higher education remains a public good committed to finding solutions for complex global challenges facing all of us?

Please Download the full colloquium booklet HERE

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