CGHE seminar 7

The public good role of higher education in East and West: a comparative study

  • Thursday, 25 Feb 2016 12:30 - 14:00
  • Room 736, UCL Institute of Education
  • Simon Marginson, UCL Institute of Education
  • CGHE Research Programme 1


The public/private division is central to policy-related understandings of higher education, but the Anglo-American world is struggling with the question of public good(s) in higher education—we lack definitions and measures that are sufficiently comprehensive, valid and credible.

In this situation it is useful to look beyond the boundaries of our own tradition. Notions of the ‘public’ dimension vary, according to the assumptions used and according to political culture. For example, there are significant differences between understandings of the respective role of government, family and higher education (and of associated concepts of ‘ public ‘social’, ‘common good’, ‘university autonomy’, etc) between Anglo-American tradition and the Chinese civilizational tradition.

No one tradition has a monopoly on wisdom, and each tradition leads to distinctive and valuable—but partial—insights into this challenging problem. Using semi-structured interviews and the analysis of documents the research will examine existing approaches to the definition and measurement of public good(s) in higher education in six contrasting country cases: UK, USA, France, Finland, China and Japan. 

The ultimate purpose is to establish a generic framework for observing, and where possible measuring, public and private outcomes of higher education. The working hypothesis guiding the research process is a definition of public/private goods that combines the state/non-state distinction with the non-market/market distinction.

This produces a grid with four quadrants representing four different political economies of higher education: civil society, social democracy, state quasi-market, commercial market. This working hypothesis will be explained during the seminar. It will be reworked during and at the end of the project in the light of the research findings.

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Simon Marginson

Simon Marginson

Simon Marginson is Professor of International Higher Education at UCL Institute of Education, and Director of CGHE. He is also Joint Editor-in-Chief of the journal Higher Education. He focuses on international and global aspects of higher education, higher education and social equality, and generating impact from CGHE’s research programmes.

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