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3 - Higher Education Policies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 March 2021

Donatella della Porta
Affiliation:
Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa
Lorenzo Cini
Affiliation:
Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa
Cesar Guzman-Concha
Affiliation:
Université de Genève
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Summary

Introduction

In contrast with the dominant research trend in social movement studies, which has traditionally devoted little attention to the political economy of contemporary societies (della Porta, 2015), the authors contend that the effects of political-economic changes are key to better understanding the rise, variety and decline of student mobilizations. Transformations occurring in the institutional forms and modes of regulation of capitalism, especially those related to state institutions and their policies, have indeed been fundamental in setting in motion, and shaping the formation processes of social movements (Cini et al., 2017).

Considering this, the chapter addresses long-term and short-term political-economic changes occurring in the field of HE related to the recent wave of student protests. The four regions under investigation cover different HE systems, from those where the role of the state is still prominent (Italy and Quebec), and the commodification trend is not so strong, to others in which the market, along with the commodification of the sector, have acquired greater relevance over recent decades (England and Chile). The authors maintain that the different pace and form of the marketization process (see also Table 1.2 in Chapter 1) have heavily affected the ways in which students mobilized in terms of action repertoires, political goals and demands, and organizational structures. Exploring the variety and the institutional differences in the field of HE helps us assess the variety of the student movements embedded in such fields.

The economic crisis of 2008 represented a decisive watershed for further propelling the marketization process of HE, as governments overtly pursued pro-austerity and privatization agendas in various policy fields, including pensions, social protection, healthcare and HE. Austerity measures, following the crisis, have introduced neoliberal reforms in HE fields in countries where they previously did not exist, and accelerated their implementation elsewhere. This process has been characterized by one or more of the following measures: (1) the introduction of greater competition in the provision of student education; (2) the supplementation of public sources of funding of universities with private sources, especially tuition fees; and (3) the attribution of greater institutional autonomy from government steering (see Klemenčič, 2014, pp 397– 9).

Neoliberal reforms produced profound distributional consequences, as they altered the old state/family balance in the funding of HE by increasing the weight of families’ expenditures (tuition fees) to compensate for a retrenchment of state funding.

Type
Chapter
Information
Contesting Higher Education
Student Movements against Neoliberal Universities
, pp. 65 - 96
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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