Neoliberal capitalism and the modern university

Plumbing is "good", German and music "bad", according to the prevailing ideology.

With unemployment very low currently in Aotearoa New Zealand, domestic tertiary education enrolments are down, and international student numbers have not yet recovered to pre-COVID-19 levels. Universities also blame their financial woes on under-investment in the sector by governments over many years. The opportunity that COVID-19 created to "build back better", has been lost in the struggle to make ends meet. Meanwhile, the polytechnics are in the process of integration into Te Pūkenga with the Industry Training Organisations.

A reflection by Associate Professor Martin Andrew on the impact of neoliberalist ideology on the sector is timely. Universities have been responding to their financial woes by cutting (further) programmes, especially in the arts and humanities. Staff workloads have intensified. While degree-teaching staff are required by law to be research-active, the time available to undertake research is under pressure from increased teaching loads. Precarious short term employment is being used for early career educators in cheaper Teaching Fellow and Tutor roles.

Tertiary education institutions have become commercial businesses like any other sector in the free market of laissez-faire economics. The loss of public good and increased social inequality are irrelevant, and the government blames the financial straits of universities on the universities' own responsibility to manage their own affairs. Where does all the money go? How bad do things have to get to see cuts made instead in universities' property portfolios and senior leadership packages? 

Image credit: NZ Tertiary Education Union. Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike license 2.0

August 2023