Re-becoming universities? Critical Comparative Reflections on Higher Education Institutions in Networked Knowledge Societies
This book provides an overview of the major findings of the comparative research project, Changes in Networks, Higher Education and Knowledge Society (CINHEKS). The main aim of this international comparative research project is the analysis of how Higher education institutions are networked within distinct knowledge societies in two key regions of the world: Europe and the United States of America. This research project was carried out in four European countries (Finland, Germany, Portugal and the United Kingdom) and in two different states in the United States of America. In addition, during the course of the research, a team from the Russian Federation joined the CINHEKS study. The analysis is contextually grounded in a comparative policy analysis focused on the main developments and understandings of the ideas surrounding the term knowledge society, in all countries concerned. Empirical elaboration is established via a series of sequential studies, each building, incrementally, on the previous study. These studies include institutional profiles of higher education institutions, institutional case studies, and an international comparative survey that illuminates academics’ social networks. The research findings broaden our understanding of the differences and similarities in how higher education institutions and individual academics are networked within and between societies that understand themselves as knowledge societies. The book introduces a novel analytical synthesis, which asserts contemporary societies have evolved into Networked Knowledge Societies. Methodologically, the book both challenges and raises the bar for previous approaches in comparative higher education, in terms of research design, execution and lays the groundwork for a new generation of international comparative higher education research. (from Springer website)
Drawing on the discourse analysis of the higher education policy documents from 1950s to 2013 and interviews in two Russian universities, the chapter addresses the transformations in the purposes of higher education. The findings show that the main dichotomy in regard of the purposes of higher education unfolds between economic instrumentalism (vocational training) and social instrumentalism (personal development). In the Soviet documents, higher education was considered both as an instrument of national socio-economic development (through vocational training) and an instrument of individual growth. The latter role was predominant as education was an essential part of the broader social project of constructing a “new Soviet man”. In the transition period of mid-1980s–mid 1990s the policy discourse reflects an attempt to depart from economic instrumentalism and focus on the humanistic and social nature of education. Later documents present the transition to the economic instrumentalism emphasizing the economic role and economic rationales in higher education policy, which reflects the nature of the recent neoliberal reforms in the country. However, at the institutional level, social reality is more complex: there are significant tensions between economic purposes of higher education, utilitarianism, interiorized by administrators and faculty since the Soviet time, and social mission of higher education they face every day. Revealing the continuities in the discourse over several decades, the chapter shows that the predominance of economic discourse leads to the distortion of the educational mission of higher education, and in the environment impoverished by economic rationales, the importance of the social purposes of higher education has been rising.