Global Higher Education
This project examines the rapidly changing landscape of global higher education. It concentrates two areas:
1) How various rankings in global higher education (e.g., university rankings) create inequality, immobility and stratification
2) How changes in higher education affect the academic labour market
This project aims to contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals 4 (quality education), 8 (Decent work and economic Growth and 10 (reduced inequality).
The Impact of University Rankings on Social Inequality and Mobility
University rankings have become an increasingly important factor in shaping the perceptions of students, parents, and policymakers regarding the quality of higher education institutions. However, there is growing concern that these rankings may be contributing to social inequality and social immobility, particularly in the context of higher education.
One of the main ways that university rankings contribute to social inequality is through their emphasis on academic reputation and research productivity. Higher-ranked universities tend to have larger endowments, more resources, and a greater ability to attract high-quality faculty and students. This creates a self-perpetuating cycle in which higher-ranked universities are able to maintain their status by attracting the best faculty and students, while lower-ranked universities struggle to compete for resources and talent.
This dynamic has significant implications for social mobility, as it means that students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds may have fewer opportunities to attend top-ranked universities and may be more likely to attend lower-ranked institutions. This can limit their access to high-paying jobs and career advancement opportunities, and can contribute to the perpetuation of social inequality.
In addition, university rankings can also contribute to social immobility by reinforcing the importance of brand recognition and prestige in the job market. Employers often use university rankings as a proxy for the quality of a candidate's education, which can lead to a preference for candidates from higher-ranked universities. This creates a situation in which the reputation of the university a person attends can have a significant impact on their future job prospects and earning potential.
Moreover, the emphasis on research productivity and academic reputation in university rankings can lead to a devaluation of teaching and the humanities, as these areas are often not as valued in the rankings. This can create a situation in which universities place more emphasis on research productivity and less emphasis on teaching and the development of well-rounded, critical thinkers.
In conclusion, while university rankings can be useful tools for assessing the quality of higher education institutions, they can also contribute to social inequality and social immobility. Addressing this issue will require a re-evaluation of the criteria used in university rankings, a greater focus on equity and access in higher education, and a broader recognition of the value of a well-rounded, humanities-based education.
Precarity in Higher Education
In recent years, there has been a growing concern about the increasing academic precarity in higher education across many countries. Many academics face growing job insecurity, especially those held by adjunct faculty, graduate students, and early-career scholars. The following are some of the critical factors that contribute to increasing precarity in higher education, which need to be scrutinized.
The casualization of work: There has been a shift away from tenure-track positions towards non-tenure-track positions. This has led to an increase in the number of adjunct faculty members, who are hired on a semester-to-semester basis and typically receive lower pay and fewer benefits than their tenured colleagues.
The casualization of work is related to the rise of the gig economy: The gig economy, in which workers are hired on a short-term or project basis, has also affected higher education. For instance, many early-career scholars, particularly those in the humanities and social sciences, are hired on a project basis and have to scramble to find their next gig.
Moreover, the increasing use of online education: The growth of online education has also contributed to the precarity of academic jobs. Online courses are often taught by adjunct faculty or graduate students, who are paid less and have less job security than their tenured colleagues.
The corporatization of universities: Many universities are now being run more like businesses than like academic institutions. This has led to a focus on cost-cutting and efficiency, which often comes at the expense of academic quality and job security for faculty and staff.
The decline in public funding: Many universities, particularly those in the United States, have experienced a decline in public funding in recent years. This has led to budget cuts, which often result in layoffs, hiring freezes, and a reduction in benefits for faculty and staff.
All these factors combined, have created distrimental effect for for both faculty and students, as well as society at large. Faculty members who lack job security and have to constantly worry about their next paycheck are less likely to take risks and innovate in their research and teaching. This can lead to a decline in academic quality and a lack of diversity in perspectives. Students who are taught by adjunct faculty members or graduate students who lack job security may also receive a lower quality education, as these instructors may have less time and resources to devote to their teaching.
Therefore, addressing this issue will require a commitment from various stakeholders in higher education, such as universities, policymakers, academics, students and society at large.