Governments are pushing universities to become more business-like and competitive in the 'global knowledge' economy. This session will use the attributes of our own discipline to examine these reforms by interrogating the nature of the changes, and by exploring how anthropologists can study them.
Universities have been placed centre-stage in the strategies of governments and inter-governmental agencies to develop a global knowledge economy. Universities are pressed to become more business-like, efficient in producing employable students, successful in turning ideas into invoices, and to score ever-higher in international rankings. This session will use the strengths of our own discipline to examine these changes to universities as an idea, in the ways they operate as institutions, and as places of work and study. The aims are both to explore the nature of the changes underway, and to interrogate the ways that anthropologists can study them. Important issues are, for example: Through ethnographies of globalisation, can we trace the conduits and mechanisms through which ideas about the governance of universities are moving like wildfire across sectors and between countries? How migrating concepts and technologies change as they lose their moorings in one context and become embedded in a new one? Still-prevalent in policy literature is an assumption that government reforms 'trickle down' through organisations to employees and clients 'on the ground'. Instead, can we study ethnographically how governments, managers, academics and students are all actors in processes of transformation? How does the reconceptualisation of universities, eg as corporations, relate to every-day practices of academics and students? Do academics still engage in 'scholarship' when their work is broken into 'teaching' and 'research', each defined by measurable outputs? When students are hailed as 'consumers' of 'learning' for 'employability', what happens to the notion and practice of education?