Handbook on the Politics of Higher Education
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Handbook on the Politics of Higher Education

Edited by Brendan Cantwell, Hamish Coates and Roger King

Understanding the politics of Higher Education is becoming more important as the sector is increasingly recognised as a vital source of innovation, skills, economic prosperity, and personal wellbeing. Yet key political differences remain over such issues as who should pay for higher education, how should it be accountable, and how we measure its quality and productivity. Particularly, are states or markets the key in helping to address such matters. The Handbook provides framing perspectives and perspectives, chapters on funding, governance and regulation, and pieces on the political economy of higher education and on the increased role of external stakeholders and indicators.
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Chapter 24: The gender politics of higher education

Rosemary Deem


Gender politics is a long-standing feature of universities, but since attempts at alleviating gendered inequality are well established (sometimes leading to complacency), and because gender is intersectional with other inequalities, the analysis of gender politics amongst students and academics is complex. Indeed, gender-related inequalities are far from resolved in higher education. Increased autonomy in public universities in many countries has been accompanied by changed governance regimes involving external stakeholders (‘boardism’) as well as massification of student intakes, new managerialism, and quality audits of teaching and research. Equality itself is frequently taken for granted, and external stakeholders often seek only ‘letter of the law’ compliance. Governments increasingly see higher education as a means of growing the knowledge economy, training graduates for the labour market and stimulating industrial innovation; with eroding inequality only stressed when it does not conflict with these three functions. The chapter explores four contexts of gender politics in universities: academic work, performativity and careers; leadership and leadership training; the classroom, sexual harassment and violence, and laddish behavior on campus; and finally the politics of large-scale collaborative, cross-cultural equality projects. Some future research agendas are also suggested.

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