How globalization is upsetting the university


Higher education has always had an international dimension. However, a new step seems to have been taken in the late 1990s. In addition to the increase in student mobility, a global map of the university is emerging, with new actors, public and private, while national systems are undergoing processes. polarization and prioritization.

In France, this globalization of higher education is primarily European and began with the Bologna process, launched in 1998, aimed at making the European Higher Education Area a system of “economics”. of the most competitive and dynamic knowledge of the world. ” It is therefore an economic globalization that is involved, one of the most visible aspects is the rise and financialization of registration fees.

The development of the European dimension and the internationalization of French higher education is one of the strategic axes of the StraNES report (National Strategy for Higher Education, 2015). Nevertheless, we note that the strategies put in place, as well as the effects they produce, are rarely questioned.

Increased competition between institutions

The globalization of higher education leads to increased competition between institutions and to an ever greater participation of private actors, whether in the financing of the system (by families) or the continuation of mass access to higher education, which is now largely supported by private institutions (see Casta, 2015).

In this perspective, the theses of the New Public Management gradually spread in the name of the supposed efficiency of the market mechanisms (Laval et al., 2011, Papadopoulos, 2011). The development of the selection process and of the registration fees accompany the assumption that each student is above all the entrepreneur of his professional future, an investor in his individual human capital (Moulin, 2014) moved by his sole desire to want to receive a higher salary tomorrow (Becker, 1964).

Serious strategic consequences

At the same time, competition induces a change in the strategies of actors and a stratification of the educational offer. In France, this is reflected in particular in the growing autonomy of universities (Musselin, 2001, 2017) and a diversification of degrees (ORE law of 2018).

This marketing of higher education is visible not only through the development of selection, registration fees, competition between institutions and the increase of private means and actors, but also through the internationalization of Higher Education. This last element is materialized by the development of strategies to attract good foreign students as well as the development of teaching activities abroad.

A global knowledge market

All these transformations, combined with the contemporary trends of capitalism, have led to the emergence of a global market for higher education and knowledge: higher tuition fees (Flacher et al., 2013, ACIDES, 2015), a vertiginous increase in student debt (Delapierre, 2012), new public management of faculty and quantitative evaluation criteria (Paradeise, 2011), competitive bidding for grants (Gozlan, 2016) are only a few examples. some of the changes that dilute the boundaries between academia and the commercial world.

Even if these changes do not translate directly into the privatization of universities, in this global university, knowledge is increasingly exchanged as a commodity (Paradeise, 2012).

The constitution of a teaching market (Dupriez and Dumay 2012, Felouzis, Maroy and van Zanten 2013) is not without asking a certain number of questions. Among these, there is the issue of the publics and institutions involved in this evolution of higher education.

One of the potential unequal effects of globalization is that it allows mobility only for certain students, despite the policies implemented in some countries. In the same way, what are the effects on the national structuring of higher education systems of the integration into the globalization of certain institutions?

Classification and quantitative judgments

For example, Gardner (RMIT Vice Chancellor’s Speech, 2008) shows that in the Australian case, by trying to save places for the best universities in the international rankings, we are 94% of students attend school in less prestigious institutions. Rankings, like evaluation devices, also account for almost only research activities (Espeland and Sauder, 2007).

Does the quantitative representation of the academic universe imposed by these rankings induce an evolution of the strategies of the actors? Moreover, how will the research and training centers be restructured to play the game of competition? Who are the winners and losers of this frantic race? The focus can be brought to the macro level: Hazelkorn (2015) emphasizes that globalization by rankings can potentially produce institutions of excellence (from the point of view of rankings) but that this is not the case at the national level. national systems. All these questions remain open to research and the crossroads of perspectives.

Author Bios: Hugo Harari-Kermadec is a Lecturer in Economics of Education, Ecole Normale Supérieure Paris-Saclay at Paris-Saclay University and Léonard Moulin is a Research Fellow in Social Sciences at the Institut National d’Études Démographiques (INED).This article was co-written with Leïla Frouillou (Paris Nanterre University).