It has been over fifty years since Ivan Illich (1971) denounced the complicity with which institutionalized higher education (HE) had begun to embody far right consumerist manipulation, ritualization, and mythologization. Illich’s critique was couched within a prescient warning that institutionalized education effected a process of neoliberal commodification, a process concerned primarily with producing a bundle of ‘packaged values’ that would be marketable to ‘consumer-pupils’. In the years since the publication of Illich’s Deschooling Society, scholars within the field of HE have outlined and decried the myriad deleterious effects brought about by the continued neoliberal commodification of the university (Reynolds, 1977; Slaughter and Rhoades, 2000; Whitty, 2002; Davies et al, 2006; Apple, 2011; Ball, 2012; Peters et al, 2012; Burke, 2013; Hall and Stahl, 2015; Connell, 2019). These critiques have undoubtedly served to augment and refine Illich’s initial concern for the neoliberal commodification of HE. However, they have tended to avoid a critical facet of his argument. Namely, a myopic tolerance within the academy of ‘fundamental contradictions between myth and institution’, which he believed resulted in a ‘dull, protracted, expensive and destructive’ institutional process of societal initiation (Illich, 1971, p. 49).
In recent years, critics on the far right have seized upon this stance in order to challenge the continued relevance and utility of the university as a social institution in service to the public good. Rather than representing singularly important Humboltian paragons of free thought, which promote the acquisition of ‘new knowledge’, critics of contemporary HE level the charge that a university education now represents an exorbitant and unnecessary process of liberal indoctrination in primary service to the continuation of the university itself (Hett, 2021).
While globalized isomorphic pressures undoubtedly effect systemic convergence, diversity within both higher education systems (HES) and specific higher education institutions (HEI) s is driven by the uniquely local and national pressures expressed within a given context. Thus, this call for papers represents a renewed effort to ‘demythologize’ the globalized institution of HE, a reflexive, dialectical process wherein scholars are invited to examine the inconsistencies and contradictions between the myth and reality of institutionalized HE. Specifically, by addressing longstanding and recurrent myths surrounding the global institution of he, we hope to engage in what Woodman describes as an ‘out-of-bounds’ process of separating fact from fiction within our ‘socially most prestigious educational institution’ (1978).
Toward this aim, this issue hopes to elicit responses from scholars across China as well as the globe who can speak to the systemic and institutional diversity of contemporary HE. In particular, we welcome contributions from current and recently graduated postgraduate students, as well as more longstanding scholars within the interdisciplinary field of HE. Potential topics of interest include:
The myth of university governance, organization, and management – e.g., how and to what extent have neoliberal educational reforms and policies affected institutional structure and mission, the process of teaching and learning, knowledge production, and student care?
The myth of ideology – e.g., how and to what extent have globalized ideological currents been reflected within departmental guidelines, mission statements, research agendas, teacher selection and training, curriculum design, pedagogy, and classroom management?
The myth of knowledge – e.g., how and to what extent is the process of knowledge production and dissemination either autonomous, defined by societal contribution, or performativity cultures embedded within the institutional or academic context?
The myth of the degree – e.g., how and to what extent does the ritual process of university credentialization convey upon students a mastery of field-specific content, technique, interdisciplinarity, cultivation of informed outlook, and professional retainability?
The myth of the institution – e.g., how and to what extent does the modern university continue to provide benefit to scientific progress, individual advancement, cross-cultural exchange, and overall societal development?
Dr. Benjamin Green
College of Teacher Education,
Beijing Language & Culture University
If you are interested in contributing a full article (6000–7000 words in length) on a topic which covers the theme of the special issue, please submit (i) your article topic, (ii) an abstract of no more than 250 words, and (iii) five keywords no later than September 1st, 2022 to Dr. Benjamin Green at firstname.lastname@example.org.
September 1st, 2022 – Deadline for 250-word abstracts
September 15th, 2022 – Authors notified and invited to write full manuscript
March 15th, 2023 – Deadline for full draft manuscripts
May 1st, 2023 – Deadline for reviewer feedback
June 1st, 2023 – Deadline for final submission of revised articles
Apple, M. W. (2011). Education and power. Routledge.
Ball, S. J. (2012). Global Education Inc: New policy networks and the neo-liberal imaginary. Routledge.
Burke, P. J. (2013). The right to higher education: Neoliberalism, gender and professional mis/recognitions. International Studies in Sociology of Education, 23(2), 107–126. https://doi.org/10.1080/09620214.2013.790660.
Connell, R. (2019). The Good University: What Universities Actually Do and Why It’s Time for Radical Change. Bloomsbury Publishing.
Davies, B., Gottsche, M., & Bansel, P. (2006). The Rise and Fall of the Neo-Liberal University. European Journal of Education, 41(2), 305–319. http://www.jstor.org/ stable/3700117.
Hall, R., & Stahl, B. (2015). Against commodification: The university, cognitive capitalism and Emergent Technologies. Marx and the Political Economy of the Media, 65–97. https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004291416_005.
Hett, B. C. (2021, November 5). Op-ed: When politicians claim professors like me are the enemy, what are they really attacking? Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 12, 2022, from https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2021-11-05/jd-vance-professors-are- the-enemy-politics.
Illich, I. (1971). Deschooling Society. Harper and Row.
Peters, M. A., Liu, T.-C., & Ondercin, D. J. (2012). The pedagogy of the Open Society: Knowledge and the governance of Higher Education. Sense Publishers.
Reynolds, P. A. (1977). The university in the 1980s: An anachronism? Higher Education, 6(4), 403–415. https://doi.org/10.1007/bf00132526.
Slaughter, S., & Rhoades, G. (2000). The Neo-Liberal University. New Labor Forum, 6, 73–79. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40342886.
Whitty, G. (2002). Making Sense of Education Policy. Paul Chapman Publishing.
Woodman, K. (1978). Demythologizing University Education. Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, 67, 306–316. http://www.jstor.org/stable/30088136.
Managing editor: Tong Meng