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When the shift hits the critical fan: a Foucauldian analysis

By Heather Brunskell-Evans


In the past 15 years in the UK, the state has acquired powers, which mark a qualitative shift in its relationship to higher education. Since the introduction and implementation of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998 and the Higher Education Act 2004, a whole raft of changes have occurred which include the following: Widening participation; the development of interdisciplinary, experiential and workplace-based learning focused on a theory-practice dialogue; quality assurance; and new funding models which encompass public and private partnerships. The transformation of higher education can be placed in the context of New Labour’s overall strategies for overarching reform of public services, as set out in the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit’s discussion paper The UK Government’s Approach to Public Service Reform (2006). An optimistic view of changes to higher education is that they simultaneously obey democratic and economic imperatives. There is an avowed commitment through the widening participation agenda to social inclusion and citizenship, and to providing the changing skills base necessary for the global economy. A more cynical view is that, when put under critical scrutiny, as well as being emancipatory, in some senses these changes can be seen to mobilise regulatory and disciplinary practices. This paper reflects on what kinds of teaching and learning are promoted by the new relationship between the state and the university. It argues that, whilst governmental directives for innovations and transformations in teaching and learning allegedly empower students and put their interests at the centre, reforms can also be seen to consist of supervisory and controlling mechanisms with regard both to our own practices as teachers and the knowledge/ learning we provide for the students

Topics: LB2300
Publisher: Educational Development, University of Greenwich
Year: 2010
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