Globalisation and neo-liberalism as educational policy in Australia

Year: 2013

Author: Zajda, Joseph

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Recent public pronouncements on the crisis of higher education in Australia, which resulted in the commissioning a number of reports, including the Bradley Report (2008) by the Australian Government, reflect, to a certain degree, a period of ‘moral panic’. The term idefines the condition that favours media responses to a perceived crisis in society. The ascent of a neo-liberal and neo-conservative higher education policy, which has redefined education and training as an investment in human capital, and human resource development, dominated higher education reforms in Australia since the 1980s. Globally, neo-liberalism in higher education policy reforms has been characteristic of capitalist societies, including Australia, since the 1980s. Hence, the politics of higher education reforms in Australia reflect this new emerging paradigm of accountability, ‘globalisation and academic performance indicators, and standards-driven policy change.
The paper, using discourse analysis, focuses on globalisation, education reforms, and neo-liberal ideology and its impact on higher education. It argues that globalisation has impacted on education reforms in four ways: competitiveness-driven reforms, finance-driven reforms, equity-driven reforms, and quality-driven-reforms. Using elements of discourse analysis and critical theory, the paper critiques current imperatives of globalisation, and educational policy reforms, designed to achieve global competitiveness, quality, and diversity. Globalisation, policy and the politics of education reforms suggest new politico-economic dimensions of cultural imperialism. Such hegemonic shifts in ideology and policy are likely to have significant economic and cultural implications for education reforms and policy implementations. It is argued that forces of globalisation have contributed to the on-going globalisation of schooling and higher education curricula, together with the accompanying global standards of excellence, globalisation of academic assessment (OECD, PISA), global academic achievement syndrome (OECD, World Bank), and global academic elitism and league tables-the positioning of distinction, privilege, excellence and exclusivity.
The paper argues that neo-liberal dimensions of globalisation, and market-driven economic imperatives have impacted on higher education reforms in four ways: competitiveness-driven reforms, finance-driven reforms, equity-driven reforms, and quality-driven-reforms. Global competitiveness was and continues to be a significant goal on higher education policy agenda. Accountability, efficiency, academic capitalism, the quality of education, and market oriented and ‘entrepreneurial’ university model represent a neo-liberal ideology, which focuses primarily on the market-driven imperatives of economic globalisation. The latest higher education reforms focus more on economic competitiveness, academic elitism, quality and standards, rather than on addressing access and equity, in order to solve serious educational inequalities in the higher education sector.