Now and then: Revolutions in higher learning

  • Boyce G
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Tilling (2002) examines the history of the industrial revolution, seeking to parallel developments during the Industrial Revolution with those in our own time-sometimes referred to as the "information revolution". He uses history in this context as a source of understanding of the present times, and the focus of his analysis is the university as a social institution. Taking Tilling's work as a starting point, this paper considers the role of universities during times of change, considering especially the link between wider social, economic and political change, and resistance to change in the university. The ideological hegemony of the prevailing political and economic order, and, in revolutionary times, of the pre-existing order, is seen to be significant in shaping university responses to social and political change. The university as an institution is shown to have been, throughout history, a tool of the dominant hegemony and contemporary change in universities is, in this sense, a repeat of history. As the dominant politico-economic capitalist mode of economic rationalism is imposed on and in universities, with business and corporate interests coming to dominate the agenda both within and without universities, the institution and its constituents face a choice of falling into line (again) or taking up the struggle for the ideal university, with a progressive and critical social and political role. For academics who organically belong to, and identify with, a range of oppositional movements that strive for a better society, informed action in the present can contribute to the formation of a historical bloc that develops a counterhegemonic position to challenge the prevailing order. © 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

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  • Gordon Boyce

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