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The Neglected Role of Public Goods in Higher Education

Monday, January 30, 2017, 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm

Abstract / In an era in which the market rules the mind, and neoliberal policy economics dominate government thinking about higher education, public goods and the generic ‘public good’ are mostly under-valued, under-observed, under-measured and under-financed. This includes not just national public goods but global public goods, and it includes relational goods that build social rights and solidarity (‘common goods’), such as equal social opportunity through education, and the role of higher education in building tolerance and understanding. The paper develops a new framework for defining and monitoring public goods in higher education. The framework combines the public/private distinction used in economics—where public goods are non-market goods, goods that cannot be produced for profit because they are non-rivalrous and/or non-excludable—with the orthodox understanding in political theory of ‘public’ as the sphere of state production or control. Taken together the two approaches create an analytical framework with four quadrants (civil society, social democracy, state quasi-market, commercial market) which are applied to higher education and research. The paper also discusses the challenge of comparing public goods in higher education in different countries.

 Bio / Simon Marginson is Professor of International Higher Education at the UCL Institute of Education at University College London in the UK. He is Director of the ESRC/HEFCE Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE), and Joint Editor-in-Chief of Higher Education. Simon is one of the most cited scholar-researchers in the world in the field of higher education studies (h-index Google Scholar 51, Web of Science 16), working in critical social theory and political economy of higher education, with much of his recent scholarly output focused on globalisation and international education.  He is currently researching the public good contributions of higher education, examining the effects of higher education in the growth of social inequality in many countries, and completing a book with colleagues on the implications of the worldwide trend to high participation systems of higher education. His most recent books are The Dream is Over: The crisis of Clark Kerr’s Californian idea of higher education and Higher Education and the Common Good.RSVP to