Globalising UK Higher Education

This paper examines the changing form and scope of higher education in the United Kingdom (UK) with a specific focus on contemporary ‘globalising’ developments within the sector. Situated within an analysis of transformations under way within the wider global political economy, I explore the way the higher education sector in the UK is being progressively transformed following the insertion of a new set of, albeit contradictory, logics – of competitiveness, corporatisation, commercialisation and social cohesion – all aimed at realising the state’s economic and social development agendas. These logics are creating the conditions for the transformation of the sector (the result of the rapid growth in international students, the development of branch campuses, the emergence of new commercial transnational firms operating in the sector, the role of the university in city regional regeneration), including the nature and valuing of knowledges that are produced. The recent change of government in May 2010, from Labour to a Liberal-Conservative coalition, has not altered the defining features of these trends. Indeed, spurred on by the global financial crisis and reductions in public sector expenditure, current government initiatives would appear to be reinforcing this model.