Higher Education Policy in the Age of Knowledge Society 2013/2014 Fall
(Higher Education Policy 2013/14 Fall)

The talk about the knowledge society is omnipresent in different areas of public policy, and there are scores of particular policy projects inspired by this talk. The United Nations and several of its agencies, the World Bank, the European Union, social activists and politicians speaking on behalf of the “Arab world”, many national governments around the world, international professional associations and many others propose and attempt to implement “knowledge society projects”.

A comparative analysis indicates that when “knowledge society projects” are envisaged the primary drive is most often essentially, if not exclusively, economic and/or political, with no particular or primary interest in higher education. However, major knowledge society projects almost always end up by proposing very specific higher education policies and also by putting forward normative models regarding the role of higher education institutions.

Higher education policy is public policy, and it is a matter of concern for the society as a whole. Higher education policy is not primarily and exclusively the making of individuals and groups directly involved in the work of higher education institutions (students, professors, university administrators); it has a significant impact -- economic, political, cultural -- on the life of society beyond the walls of universities.

This course provides a conceptual framework to analyse specifically how the discourse on the knowledge society translates into higher education policies. Furthermore, it explores the rationale for various policy actors to walk deeply into the territory of higher education, even when they have no direct interest or mandate in this area (e.g. ministries of finance, economy, or commerce; international and intergovernmental organisations of various types from those promoting international security to those promoting regional economic integration, or sustainable development; professional associations in fields ranging from industrial lobbying to human rights, etc.); who exactly makes and who implements higher education policies “for the knowledge society”; what are the connections of higher education policies “for the knowledge society” with other policy areas.

The course will use a comparative approach and will combine theoretical and empirical material, including in particular a selection of case studies. The readings will come primarily from sociology (including sociology of education) and political science, with elements of history, international relations, economics, and management.