The neoliberal university and its alternatives (Soundings 63, Summer 2016)

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Publication date: July 1, 2016

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Michael Rustin

This article puts forward alternatives for higher education, as part of a series exploring programmatic alternatives to neoliberalism, in the belief that the identification of alternatives is a crucial part of the task of constructing a left challenge to the dominant consensus. Taking on Raymond Williams’s notion of the ‘democratic educator’ Рas opposed to the ‘industrial trainer’ model of education, or the ‘old humanism’ model, Rustin puts forward a range of ideas to show what a university based on such an idea might look like, and how it would differ markedly from the current commercial, neoliberal, model. Among other suggestions, he argues that post-school education is a public as well as a private good, and should be seen as the entitlement of all citizens, supported and funded by the democratic state. It should be seen as a gift from one generation to the next, and offered to all within the age range of higher education Рand not as an investment in the self to be paid for through a lifetime of debt. Given the current balance of power between the generations, older people would be able to pay for such a public service through such a means as a wealth tax. A rich society such as Britain can well afford such an investment in the future.