We are condemned to learn
Towards higher education as a learning society
Higher education discourse
There is a HE discourse (Newman et al. 2004: xii; Giroux 2007) that analyses the dangers of allowing unregulated free-market capitalism to set the agenda for HE and to convince people both within and without HE that ‘public purposes’ go beyond narrow economic needs. These discourses warn about the dangers of HE becoming a pawn in a corporate war for profits, identify significant deficits in pedagogical practices and the inability of teaching staff to engage non-traditional students. Furthermore, their vision of HE is optimistic and their commitment to supporting low-income students gives HE a worthwhile social agenda (Newman et al. 2004: 176–177).
Taylor et al. (2002: vii) state that HE should retain its open and vigorous contestation of knowledge and values by presenting critical sceptical courses and programmes that relate to the reality of current global capitalism. These educators point to the way the lifelong learning agenda has involved a shift towards handing responsibility for learning to the individual. This allied with the demise of the welfare state and the retraction of the neo-liberal state leads to the realisation that reduced government funding for HE is part of the same neo-liberal agenda that suggests the withdrawal of public institutions from the active pursuit of social purposes, unless those social purposes are economic.
These authors are committed to HE as a critical participant in addressing inequality in society (by widening participation) and enhancing social inclusion but not achieving this solely through economic development (Murphy 2001).