Globalisation and the Knowledge Economy
Globalisation is a process and a political project which has economic, social, political and technological dimensions. It has been driven by a combination of projects: free market ideologies to enable freer trade, increased mobility for students and workers, and the rapid movement of information over space enabled by powerful new digital technologies. These movements have created new inter-dependencies, with the result that events in one part of the world can have consequences on actions in another.
The development of a knowledge-based or services economy is centrally linked to globalisation. It has also brought education to the forefront. Education is considered both an economic resource for nations and the means for individuals to advance in the context of this knowledge economy. This approach is in keeping with the idea that education is a service sector that can be legitimately tapped by the market. However, this way of thinking is at odds with more accepted ways of thinking about education; as a public sector and public good that should not be privatized.
Higher education is at the forefront of this globalising process. The creation of a European Higher Education Area through the Bologna Process—to make it attractive in the international marketplace as well as to enable regional mobility of students—has been a key feature of higher education restructuring in Europe.
This process raises important social questions:
Will the three cycles open up access to greater numbers of students?
To what extent does the standardisation of higher education reduce the scope for local knowledges to be present in the curriculum?
Will opening higher education to the global market change the nature and character of higher education, in what ways, and with what outcome?