Transformations in the knowledge transmission mission of Russian universities: social vs economic instrumentalism
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.