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Financialisation and bureaucracy have perverted higher education

Extract from an interview with Steve Keen

The following extract made by the editor of RWER blogs from an interview with Dr Steve Keen appeared on 6 April 2021 [1]. The full interview with Steve appeared in the RWER journal, number 95, on 22 March 2021 [2].

“The financialisation of higher education has gone hand in hand with the growth of bureaucracy. More than all of the money raised from student loans has gone into the black hole of administration, so despite the increase in funding, there is less money going to education now than when universities were fully funded by the state. This has also perverted the educational process, for both administrators and students. Whereas administrators used to support the learning and research process, now they direct the fund-raising process; whereas students used to come for an education, they now come for vocational training.

Stuck in the middle, academics are now harried by performance targets and measurement metrics from above and ‘I’ve paid for my degree, so give it to me’ pressures from below.

When I started as an academic in 1987, my workload was huge (developing a new course from scratch each of my first 3 years, teaching 12 hours a week of classes, plus marking and 6 hours of consultation, plus doing my Masters full-time), but I was spending the bulk of my time doing interesting stuff under my own direction, and small class sizes let me really interact with the students.

Now, academics’ time is dominated by performance monitoring and form filling, while classes are unmanageably large, at least in the low-ranked universities where heterodox economists can get a job. It’s counterproductive, soul-destroying, and certainly in the UK, low-paid. I’m glad to be out of the system.

For students, it has meant they’re paying for a much lower quality education than their predecessors used to obtain for free, and they leave their university saddled with a vast amount of debt which locks them out of the housing market because they can’t service the additional debt of a mortgage. “


From finance to climate crisis: An interview with Steve Keen (interviewer Jamie Morgan)

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