Global Mechanisms and Higher Education
In a complex, fast changing global environment the very nature and definition of education is under contestation. The key issues coming to the fore appear to be who will be allowed to learn what, and under which circumstances? (Dale, 2000). This is a question close to the hearts of all those currently teaching in higher education and hence concerned with developing pedagogy at this level. Drawing upon a morphogenetic approach to structure and agency interaction (Archer, 2000; Archer, 1995), this paper is an attempt to outline some of the key agents at the global and national levels, the structures that exist, form and collapse, and their possible interactions together with the implications for various national and institutional policy developments. Two key concepts are useful in exploring the situation. The first of these is the relationship between structures, including discursive and legal structures (Kelsey, 2003), and the agency of various players such as transnational organisations, national bodies and individual higher education institutions. One developing structure in today’s international arena is the GATS framework of the World Trade Organisation, which is currently a space where events have far reaching implications for some of the current struggles over what education means for different nations and various groups of people within them(Verger, 2008). A second key concept developed, is the question of how phenomena at one level, such as the global level may affect what goes on at another level, national or institutional levels for example, where the question of privatisation of higher education is coming to the fore in some countries (Kelsey, 2003), while education systems are considered as goods for barter in return for favourable conditions in other spheres of the global economy (Verger, 2009). This is consistent with a critical realist approach which takes an ontological position that the physical and social world is stratified, with emergent features at various levels (Bhaskar, 2009 (in press)). Some possible implications for the future development of pedagogy in higher education are drawn out through a process of abstraction followed by retroduction (Sayer, 2000).