Higher education is not a single or unified field of specialised academic study. However, discursively, much of higher education (as an academic subject) has been shaped by the assumption that it should be based on ‘evidence’, should be ‘useful’ and ‘relevant’, and that its academic value is to influence policy. This view – often driven by economics and positivist structural-functionalist sociology – located the field of study of higher education politically, and has been of continuing influence epistemologically; or perhaps more precisely, ideologically.
In my presentation, I will explore how we might think and theorise differently about higher education studies. First, I will analyse some of the powerful sources of the current ‘reading of higher education’, and show how they have framed the agenda of higher education studies. Second, the analysis will locate historically the concept of a ‘deductive rationality’; briefly illustrate its sociological power and legitimation motif; and ask whether and in what ways can or should we define a core intellectual ‘problematique’ of higher education as an academic subject. Finally, I would like to reflect on where the future might lie in relation to this field, what issues might emerge, what kinds of longstanding concerns might be re-examined productively.
Listen to an audio recording of this seminar: