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Higher Education is about transformation

Paul Ashwin, University World News


We hear a lot about crisis in higher education: crises of funding, crises of access, the student debt crises… but these crises are not very often linked to the education that is offered by universities.

When they are, it tends to be about universities failing to produce employable graduates or students failing to develop generic skills. This is because public debates over the value of an undergraduate education have been dominated by oversimplified accounts of their educational purposes. This has distorted our understanding of what a high-quality undergraduate education looks like.

We need to re-focus our attention on the educational purposes of undergraduate higher education. This involves developing a clearer understanding of the transformational nature of an undergraduate education.

How do we develop a vision of an inclusive, transformational higher education system rather than an elitist, reproductive one?

This question is motivated by the ways in which elite higher education continues to be positioned and normalised as the ideal form of higher education, even though its attractiveness is built on excluding far more people than it educates.

The most dominant simplified account of the purposes of undergraduate education is the argument that the key purpose of higher education is to provide students with the generic skills that employers value, which will support individual prosperity and economic development.

Next Section: What is undergraduate education for?