Privatisation and Social Reproduction: Higher Education in a Neoliberal Environment

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 15:42
Oral Presentation
Carlos PALMA AMESTOY, University of Bristol, United Kingdom
The wave of neoliberal reforms launched in the 1970s and crystallized during the 1980s and 1990s have brought a new landscape led by ideas such as deregulation and privatisation. Today neoliberalism is a hegemonic discourse incorporated in individuals’ common-sense while the market seems to colonise every dimension of human action (Harvey 2005). Under these conditions, education has been one of the main targets of neoliberal policies. This means that the state withdraws in favour of the market while students become consumers of a private good: education. In the case of higher education, terms as marketisation, privatisation and commodification have been increasingly gaining attention. Although the situation varies from country to country, there is growing corporate culture (Giroux 2002) penetrating the area. At the same time, the composition of higher education has dramatically changed during the last few decades. Indeed, the population is increasingly entering this level of education (Marginson 2016), a phenomenon that has been called the massification and the universalisation of higher education (Trow 2007). The system, therefore, seems to leave its elitist character to integrate a broad range of social classes, which may be understood as the democratisation of tertiary education. It is in this context where the question about the reproduction of social classes and social inequalities through higher education becomes relevant. Focusing on the case of Chile – an experimental case in terms of neoliberal policies (Harvey 2005; Bellei and Vanni 2015) – and in light of the theoretical framework of Pierre Bourdieu (1979; 1990; 1996; 2010), this paper analyses the relationship between the growing privatisation of tertiary education in the country and social reproduction. As a conclusion, this work contends that privatisation has acted as a mechanism that has reinforced the segmentation of the student population and the reproduction of social inequalities in society.