Edited by Roger King, Simon Marginson and Rajani Naidoo
Chapter 21: The Strange Death of the Liberal University: Research Assessments and the Impact of Research
Mark Olssen INTRODUCTION The changes to higher education inaugurated in the UK in the early 1980s as a result of the election of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government ushered in a sea-change in how the public sector was to be managed, and of the role of government in relation to public spending. The broad faith in the state’s grandmotherly role of ‘guidance and governance’, typified in the economic sphere by Keynesian demand management, was replaced by a range of new economic, financial, administrative and political perspectives whose central common assumptions can be seen as constituted by a particular strain of liberal thought referred to most often as ‘neoliberalism’ (Burchell et al., 1991, 1996; Rose, 1993, 1996). The central defining characteristic of this new brand of liberalism was based on an application of the logic and rules of the market to the public sector. While it bore some similarities to the central tenets of classical liberalism, particularly classical economic liberalism, it was also different from it. Indeed, understanding the differences between neo- and classical liberal discourse provides an important key to understanding the distinctive nature of the neoliberal revolution as experienced throughout much of the western world in the last three decades. Whereas classical liberalism represents a negative conception of state power in that the individual was taken as an object to be freed from the interventions of the state, neoliberalism has come to represent a positive conception of the state’s role in creating the appropriate market by providing the conditions, laws...
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