Higher education reform has a particular character in the United Kingdom as Stefan Collini points out in his book, What are universities for? Margaret Thatcher's assault on social institutions put the university, as an institution for the common good, under particular economic pressure. As a result, British-oriented higher education systems world- the legacy of Empire - have suffered similar mounting pressures. This includes South Africa where the debate has been strongly influenced by the idea that university, in the name of democracy, should be more accountable and transparent. But, this purported shift towards openness masks the powerful hold of market-driven economics on the contemporary university and poses a threat to its immediate purpose and the long-term future of higher education.
Thoughts on the Humanities at Home and Abroad
The place and future of the Humanities is under scrutiny in many parts of the world. The diminution in the university commenced in the 1980s with the rise of free-market thinking associated with Thatcher and Reagan. It was the end of the Cold War, however, with the rise of globalisation that control was tightened in higher education under the guise of increased freedom. The increasing emphasis on utilitarian forms of knowledge needed for economic growth further imperilled the Humanities. In South Africa, upon which the argument draws for illustration, policy-makers paid increasing lip service to academic freedom and institutional autonomy while directing policy interest and resources away from the Humanities.