Relationship between higher education and democracy

relationship between higher education and democracy

To cite this article: Sanford F. Schram () The Future of Higher Education and .. on the relationship of education to as yet still unrealized democratic ideals. An expanded vision for higher education is a crucial part of the bargain. A new deal between democracy and capitalism begins with the recognition In T. H. Marshall (no relation to Alfred) updated the original bargain. Dialogue is an interpersonal relationship-building process that involves . It is now time for higher education to focus directly on democracy both as a form of.

Secondly, I would have most likely told you that the link between universities and democracy is contingent, which means it depends on the constellation of social, political, economic and historical factors, implying correlation more than a causation.

Last, and not least importantly, I would have told you that, in some cases, the link is not even there; universities can and do exist alongside regimes that cannot be described as democratic even if we extended the term in the most charitable way possible.

In fact, when I first came to CEU as a research fellow init was in order to look more deeply into this framing of the relationship between universities and democracy. At the time, in much of public policy and in particular in international development discourse, education was seen as an instrument for promoting democracy, peace, and sustainable prosperity — especially in the context of post-conflict reconciliation.

The more of it, thus, the better. This was the consensus I wanted to challenge.

relationship between higher education and democracy

Now, while most universities subscribe to values of peace and democracy at least on paper, only a few were ever founded with the explicit aim to promote them. In that sense, I came to the very belly of the beast, but in the best possible sense.

CEU proved immensely valuable, both in terms of research I did here and at the Open Society Archives, as well as discussions with colleagues and students: For better or worse, the case I settled on — former Yugoslavia — lent itself rather fortuitously to questioning the relationship between education and values we usually associate with democracy. In Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia which was, it bears remembering, a one-party state higher education attainment kept rising steadily in fact, at a certain period of time, in exact opposition to governmental policies, which aimed to reduce enrollment to universities up until its dissolution and subsequent violent conflict.

The political landscape of its successor states today may be more variegated Slovenia and Croatia are EU members, the semblance of a peaceful order in Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia is maintained through heavy investment and involvement of the international community, and Serbia and to a perhaps lesser extent Montenegro are effectively authoritarian fiefdomsbut what they share across the board is both growing levels of educational attainment and an expanding higher education sector.

relationship between higher education and democracy

In other words, both the number of people who have, or are in the process of obtaining, higher education, and the number of higher education institutions in total, are growing. This, I thought, goes some way towards proving that the link between universities and democracy is contingent and dependent on a number of political factors, rather than necessary.

Would I say the same thing today? Today, universities and those within them increasingly find it necessary to justify their existence, not only in response to challenges to autonomy, academic freedom, and, after all, the basic human rights of academics, such as those happening in Turkey as we will hear in much more detail during this conference or here in Hungary, but also in relation to the broader challenges related to the declining public funding of higher education and research.

relationship between higher education and democracy

In doing this, we forgo exactly the fine-grained detail that disciplines including but limited to sociology and social anthropology should pay attention to. Put bluntly, we forget the relevance of the social context for making universities what they are. For this, we need to ask not what universities ideally aim to achieve, but rather, what is it that universities do, what they can do, but also, importantly, what can be done with them. Shifting the focus from purposes to uses is not the case, as Latour may have put it, of betraying matters of concern in order to boast about matters of fact.

It is, however, to draw attention to the fact that the relationship between universities and democracy is, to borrow another expression from Latour, a factish: Keeping this in mind, I think, can allow us to think about different roles of universities without losing sight neither of their reality, nor of their constructed nature.

Let me give you just two examples. Within this group, the most pronounced distinction is being white or not.

The other example is from a very recent study that looked at the relationship longitudinal data concerning outgoing student mobility from former Soviet countries, and levels of attained democracy. In contrast, countries with higher proportions of students studying in the most popular, authoritarian destination — the Russian Federation — have reached significantly lower levels of democratic development. All of which is a rather long way of saying what this graph achieves much more succinctly, which is that correlation does not imply causation.

Sociology and anthropology are particularly good at unraveling knots of multiple and overlapping processes, but history, political science and critical public policy analysis are necessary too.

relationship between higher education and democracy

However, this sort of research does not easy clickbait make. What universities can do: The modern university is all of these things, and none of them entirely, and more besides. The one thing we never really "get" about the mass higher education system we have created over the past half century, which is central to defining its purposes, is its essential link with democracy.

Buried deep in the psyche of British certainly English higher education there are still residues of noblesse oblige and its historical role of co-opting the best of the brightest into the ruling class. So widening participation is all very well at the margins. But it becomes a threat if it moves centre-stage.

relationship between higher education and democracy

The contrast with the US is stark. Going to college is part of being American; it has a direct link through to the founding values of the republic. So big books like Amy Gutmann's Democratic Education get written — and noticed. The fact that she is now president of the University of Pennsylvania, a world-class research university, and was provost at Princeton only emphasises how wide the Atlantic is.

The expansion of higher education is a key element in our democracy | Education | The Guardian

Her peers here mainly obsess about improving their performance in the forthcoming Research Excellence Framework. Higher education in Britain suffers from this "missing link" in two ways. First, debates about charging fees or encouraging greater diversity of institutional missions become instantly toxic because they are seen as rooted in unjust class distinctions, even though the social profiles of leading universities in the US and Britain — and the rest of Europe — are remarkably similar.

Second, we may fail to recognise creeping social realities.

The expansion of higher education is a key element in our democracy

Despite everything, the expansion of higher education has been a key element in the progress of our democracy. Higher education is no longer about elites but about citizens — because going to college is a quasi-compulsory precondition for full participation in our society, the gateway into Middle England. So it is argued that universities should concentrate on producing the human capital required by the knowledge economy, not on a rootless, potentially under-educated and discontented, graduate class — which is the inevitable result of extending a general academic education to too many people.

The flaw with this choice between expert skills and intellectual values is that creative entrepreneurs and critical citizens are not different people.