The Politics of Aspiration: Digital Disruption and the Promise of the New in Australian Higher Education Policy

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 15:40
Oral Presentation
Shane DUGGAN, RMIT, Australia
Young people’s relationship to the digital information economy is a key site of popular and policy attention in the context of global shifts in labour market conditions. The massification of social and digital media, and the rapid growth of digital markets globally have brought significant challenges for policy makers in what counts as work, and how best to prepare young people to engage with it. As this paper explores, notions of futurity and the ‘new’ within the digital information economy have played a dominant role in popular and policy discourse in Australia, as it has in many other post-industrial countries.

This paper follows the deployment of notions of the digital, coding, and ‘jobs of the future’ by Australian Federal Ministers since the announcement of Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s ‘coding in schools’ policy in May 2015. It draws upon a critical policy analysis of parliamentary debates, media releases, and engagements by Government and Opposition Federal Ministers to consider how the re/articulation and embedding of ‘STEM’ in secondary and higher education takes up an idealised notion of ‘the future’ as tech-enabled and requiring a policy response to ‘the new’.

The analysis highlights three lines of debate that have emerged in operationalising and responding educational policy in the wake of digital labour market disruption: first, the rise and reach of networked infrastructures into traditional modes of life and work; second, the future value of existing and proposed programmes of study; and third, the implications for resourcing in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis and uneven economic recovery. It suggests that a policy and popular emphasis on these three forms of ‘newness’ has come to inform what counts as ‘success’ for young people’s lives in the future, and reorganize the orientation of their educational experiences in the present in new, commodified forms.