The state


Chapter 8 of

Tied Knowledge: Power in Higher Education


by Brian Martin

Go to Tied Knowledge contents page

Where does the money for educational institutions come from? The answer, in most cases throughout the world, is the state. Even many so-called private universities, such as Harvard and Stanford, are heavily financed by the state. Furthermore, in most countries the state provides a great deal of control over what goes on inside schools and campuses. The state thus is of key importance in understanding the power structure of higher education.

'The state' can be a fearsome topic in the hands of academics. Marxist intellectuals in particular can turn a treatment of 'the theory of the state' into a hair-raising journey through abstruse concepts and dialectical turns which at any conjuncture may succumb to the snares of bourgeois logic. Still, since the state is so important in the dynamics of higher education, it is essential to discuss it.

What is the state? In terms of familiar bodies, the state includes national and regional government and their administrative bureaucracies, the military, police, the legal system and often many industrial and service bodies such as telecommunications. The operation of the state depends on the extraction of a surplus from the economy. The economic system is either controlled entirely by the state, as under state socialism, or is regulated and partly owned by the state as under capitalism.

The foundation of state power is a monopoly over what is considered to be legitimate public violence - namely the use of military and police forces - within a territory. (Max Weber defines the state in these terms.) The administration of compulsory schooling, which ultimately relies on the use of force against resisters, depends on the use of state power.

Throughout the world, the state provides funding for most of higher education, and indeed for most formal education at all levels. The exceptions are various private institutions - funded by churches for example - and private sponsorship of particular activities in higher education, such as by corporations. As well as setting the level of financial support for higher education, some states specify details of what is done within the sector, including decisions on hiring staff and developing syllabuses.

Another key power held by the state over higher education is that of allocating the rights to supply credentials. To give degrees, an educational institution must be licensed by a body authorised by the state. This power of the state applies to private educational bodies, and thus provides a strong unifying force on educational institutions.

State funding and control of higher education are so familiar that they are not often questioned in a fundamental way. Debates concern how the state will be involved in higher education rather than whether it will be. To gain a perspective on the role of the state, it is valuable to look back in history to the time when formal education was not under its aegis. It was not so long ago.

The state takeover of formal education (I)

Margaret Archer has developed a very sophisticated and illuminating model for understanding the large-scale dynamics of educational systems. Her sociological model combined with historical analysis tells how the state took over formal education, and also tells a lot about why different types of educational systems have developed as they have since the state takeover.

Archer's discussion concerns those educational systems that developed within particular countries primarily in response to internal power struggles rather than being imposed for example by colonial regimes. She has looked in detail at the educational systems of England, Denmark, France and the Soviet Union.

Centuries ago, education was privately controlled in these countries. Typically the owner and controller was a church, such as the Church of England. In Archer's terms, education was mono-integrated: entirely under the control of and at the service of a particular sector of society such as the church. Other groups in society had no say over the form and content of formal education. Teachers were entirely dependent on the controller and thus could not initiate change internally.

Mono-integration was useful to the controlling body, though expensive. The owner maintained its monopoly in various ways, including teaching and propagating ideas which legitimated its monopoly and excluding potential critics from instruction.

For other groups mono-integration was frustrating. State bureaucracies and capitalist enterprises, which were gaining in strength, did not obtain graduates trained to serve their needs. Likewise, parents seeking secular training to promote the career interests of their children were frustrated by the restricted educational offerings.

According to Archer's model, the most powerful groups opposing mono-integration used two strategies to overcome it. The first strategy was restriction: putting political controls on the educational system which challenged the single controller. The group best placed to implement the restriction strategy was the political elite. Since the state was the key avenue for the exercise of political power, the strategy of restriction led to state control of educational systems. This occurred in France and Czarist Russia.

The second strategy used to overcome mono-integration was substitution: the development of a parallel system of education and the gradual replacement of the mono-integrated system. The group best placed to implement this strategy was the economic elite. But because of the importance of state economic resources, both the previous controlling group and the challenging group sought state intervention to serve theirends in the struggle to control education. The result once again was state control of formal education. This process occurred in England and Denmark.

The two strategies led to two different types of educational systems. The strategy of restriction led to a centralised system in which the state exercised control over many detailed aspects of education, including staffing and curriculum. In the Soviet Union educational policy was determined exclusively at the top political levels and then implemented by regulations which were supposed to be followed in detail.

France's educational system is not quite so centralised, but is basically similar. The main mechanism for educational change in such centralised systems is political manipulation. Groups - whether teachers, professional groups or employers - that want to promote changes in education must proceed by trying to influence elite policy makers in the state.

The strategy of substitution led to a decentralised system. The state provides financial support for education, but political control is spread among several groups, including state bureaucrats, teachers, employers and parents. In decentralised systems such as in England and Denmark, political manipulation - lobbying or applying pressure for change from the top - is only one way to promote change. Another way is internal initiation: introducing change within the system, as when teachers promote new types of courses or teaching methods. A third way is external transaction, which involves negotiations between groups inside and outside the educational system. An external transaction might involve corporate funding for a university department in exchange for academic study or research useful to the corporation.

This then, in very abbreviated form, is Archer's model for the dynamics of large-scale educational systems. What can the model tell us? It shows that present educational arrangements are of historical origin, rather than being some sort of timeless necessity. An understanding of history is very useful in showing that educational systems are a result of political and economic struggles. The result is not necessarily optimal or functional: it is an accommodation to the political and economic resources of different groups. In particular, education is structured to serve the most powerful groups in society. Finally, Archer's model shows the importance of educational structure itself for the dynamics of educational change. Whatever system becomes established is very hard to dislodge.

The differences between the political control of educational systems in different countries are considerable. In centralised systems the state - usually a state educational authority - makes many detailed decisions about the form and content of education, including details of curriculum and appointments. Teaching staff have very little control. In decentralised systems the main official role of the state is to provide finance. Detailed decisions are made at lower levels, either at the level of the school or university, or by groups of teachers or individuals. In the decentralised systems the state still has ultimate power, but has chosen to delegate that power through various structures. The different relations between states and educational systems have a large impact on the possible avenues for change, as Archer's model shows. In this book I mainly deal with the politics of higher education in decentralised systems.

The state takeover of formal education (II)

Archer's model looks at the politics of educational systems assuming the existence of a set of social structures: the state, the church, capitalism, etc. But why did education take the form of mass compulsory schooling? Why did the state end up administering this sort of educational system?

The point of these questions is that mass schooling is not the only way in which learning can take place. Prior to mass schooling - namely at most a couple of hundred years ago - most learning took place via day-to-day experience. People learned about things and how to do things through socialisation. Children learn language, rules of behaviour, values and attitudes in this way.

Another way in which learning occurred was through nonformal education which occurred in households, in apprenticeships in guilds, and in the church and community. The purpose of households and guilds was not primarily education, but participation in them had a strong educative component.

In the Europe of several centuries ago, socialisation and nonformal education were quite adequate for most purposes. Why then did the state not rely on these modes of learning? Why was mass credentialed schooling introduced?

To answer these questions, it is necessary to look at the rise of the modern state, which took place in Europe most dramatically after the French Revolution. The previous social system, feudalism, was based on relatively independent and self-sufficient fiefdoms, in which rigid social hierarchies and traditions held sway. Feudalism began to break down due to the development of trade in both goods and ideas. Also important was the rise of industry organised in the form of capitalism. The new locus of political power superseding the feudal system was the state system. Rather than relying on the traditional hierarchies of aristocracy and church, the state built itself on administration through hierarchical systems based on formal rules and a division of labour: bureaucracy. To provide revenue for the state, in particular the new standing army, taxes were imposed. The administration of taxation became a prototype for state bureaucracies.

For the state to gain power, it had to break down the traditional closed systems of the household, the feudal estate, the church and the guild. These traditional systems had no inherent incentive to serve the interests of the state. Several developments weakened the traditional systems. One was trade and industry, which undercut feudal self-sufficiency and also provided pressures on and for people to move out of the estates. Another was military confrontation between developing states, which put a premium on development of professional, bureaucratised military forces. And not least was the developing popular challenge to feudal oppression, which was most explosively released in the French Revolution. The budding state provided an avenue for social forces wishing to challenge the traditional feudal institutions.

In the early 1800s in Europe and America, the development of industry made it valuable for learning to be expanded and extended to a wider section of the population. It is possible that the traditional methods of learning, by socialisation and by nonformal education, could have sufficed. But they did not serve the interests of the state, since they reinforced the traditional institutions of the household, guild, church and community. Schooling - systematic moulding of the lives of the young in a specific institution - was much more useful to the state, at least if the schooling was under the overall control of the state. Like socialisation and nonformal education, the schools promoted learning, but schooling was more oriented to the needs of the state. Furthermore, one important purpose of schooling was the promotion of patriotism.

The state takeover of formal education (III)

In any society in which groups stand to gain by inequitable social arrangements - whether this is male domination, feudal hierarchy or state power - knowledge can be used as a social resource in power struggles. Under the feudal system, systematic learning was restricted to a small elite, and the mass of the population was kept in its place partly through ignorance. Likewise, church elites used their privileged knowledge to justify their exalted position. In an industrialising society among other industrialising societies - the situation during the development of the modern state system - mass literacy coupled with a more highly educated elite became increasingly useful for the success of industrial and military competition with other states, including in the administration of the state itself.

All sorts of groups thus had an interest in using and controlling knowledge. In the early days of the modern state, the whole process of knowledge production and transmission was too crucial to be left alone. Hence there was a battle to control the institutions to handle this process. The result was the state takeover of educational systems, and the extension of these formal systems to ever wider sections of the population.

Higher education and the state

So far I have described the relation between the state and educational systems generally. How does higher education fit in? As a locus for study, higher education is at the top of the educational pyramid. (Why else would it be called higher education?) Entry is restricted to those who have succeeded through primary and secondary studies. In earlier centuries higher education was the preserve of a tiny elite. As an elite training ground, higher education served to reproduce the elite. When controlled by the church in earlier centuries, universities produced clerics. This was one source of frustration to rising classes, such as capitalists, members of other professions and top state bureaucrats, who wanted people trained for their purposes and wanted opportunities for their children. The state takeover of higher education made it possible for training to be broadened and reoriented to the needs of newly emerging powerful groups.

As well as providing training, the other key role of higher education is the production and accrediting of knowledge.

The state as mediator

Using Archer's model, the state can be seen as a mediator of the various groups that try to influence education. The educational system is multiply integrated: many different groups have an influence on decisions about education. State bureaucrats can only cut back on public resources allocated to education if they can overcome political pressure from parents and students to provide more educational services. The educational system becomes more differentiated and specialised to serve different interest groups, in particular future employers. All these different inputs reduce the direct power of the state and allow a degree of autonomy for teachers. The teachers develop a professional orientation and enter into negotiations with other groups.

What precisely do the various groups want out of the higher education? This depends in part on whether the group is state bureaucrats, members of professions, capitalists, local communities, trade unions or academics themselves. But there are some general things all such groups have an interest in.

* Personnel. Lawyers, doctors, administrators, educators: all these and others are licensed, and to some degree trained, in academic institutions. The training of 'personnel' - the 'production' of people trained for occupational niches - has always been a key role of higher education. The question is, what 'products' are to be produced? Some groups are well serviced, such as the long-established professions of law and medicine, whereas other groups, such as working class communities, are not.

* Socialisation. Students encounter not only training but also an intellectual and social climate. All this encourages adoption of particular sets of attitudes and actions. Socialisation of students can aid different groups in society. This is most developed and deliberate in education of professionals such as doctors and engineers, which can include clinical supervision, instruction in professional ethics and work experience.

Elite universities foster in their students a sense of superiority, of comfort in being in a commanding position. This is most useful in providing recruits to top posts in government, business and the professions.

Contrary to this, some students are stimulated to become socially critical. This may be welcomed or deplored, depending on what is being criticised.

* Knowledge applications. Some of the knowledge produced in academic institutions has direct applications, for example to improve managerial control or develop new weapons for the military. The groups concerned about such applications have a direct interest in influencing higher education to preserve or expand the production of knowledge useful to them.

* Legitimations. Rather than practical application, some knowledge is more useful to justify particular policies and practices. Many socially important systems of ideas - such as the theory of the free market in economics - are developed, elaborated, supported or challenged within academia. Since modern social systems depend to a significant extent on popular acceptance, ideas can be used by different social groups to sustain or undermine social arrangements. Therefore these groups have an interest in what ideas are produced or accredited in academia.

* Social reform. Higher education can be a base for initiating or restraining social reform. If the entry to higher education is preferentially allocated to a particular social class - such as the children of managers and professionals - or if the culture of academic life is oriented to a particular class, then higher education helps reproduce the class structure. To overcome patterns of class inequality, educational reformers try to devise programmes to encourage working class entry and success in higher education.

In all these cases, the state is one focus - virtually the only focus in centralised educational systems - for influencing the form and content of higher education. The idea of the state as 'mediator' of the influences of other groups should not suggest that the outcome is balanced in any way. The most powerful groups are the ones that have the most influence: capitalists have more influence than workers. But on the other hand, the influences on higher education are not always effective. There is quite a lot of resistance in the system. State directives may not be taken up by academic bodies. Further down the line, not all students subscribe to the dominant intellectual culture.

Specific state influences

As well as acting as a mediator, the state has particular interests of its own which often impact on higher education. The most fundamental of these interests relate to the foundations of the state itself.

As noted before, the state is founded on a monopoly over the use of what is claimed to be legitimate violence within a territory. The police exercise violence internally and the military externally (and often internally as well). Foreign military threats and internal challenges must be resisted if the state is to survive. One important role of higher education is to provide trained personnel for the military forces (especially the officer corps) and for the civilian military bureaucracy. Just as important is the development and application of knowledge for modern weapons systems and for bureaucratic management of military forces. When the earth's first artificial satellite was launched by the Soviet Union in 1957, this led to an outcry and reappraisal of science education in the United States.

The training and knowledge most useful for professional military forces must fall in a narrow domain: it must be effective against enemy forces while maintaining the control of the state internally. Methods of struggle which could be easily used by the general populace would undercut the monopoly over violence held by the state. This is one reason why 'defence' is construed exclusively in terms of professional military forces and advanced technology, and why alternatives such as partisan warfare and nonviolent resistance are seldom studied or researched in higher education.

Another key function of the state is attempting to manage the economy. Any government that fails in this task will come under threat from either internal challenges or external economic control. The state therefore has a strong interest in training and in the development and use of knowledge for expanding the economy - so long as the expansion remains regulated by the state, which needs to take its cut to survive.

The state, to sustain itself and the society's social system, allocates benefits to privileged sectors. This is accomplished in a variety of ways, including the structure of the tax system, the allocation of state funding (such as support for particular industries), and payment to state employees. Higher education is itself a source of privilege, and so the state has a general and sometimes specific interest in admission policies, curriculum and credentials.

How is the influence of the state transmitted to higher education? Most obvious is the role of the state educational bureaucracy. In centralised systems this bureaucracy, and sometimes top political elites, decide educational policy and transmit it downwards. In decentralised systems the educational bureaucracy's influence is more indirect. Some of the mechanisms include:

* job opportunities within state bureaucracies for academics who work on problems central to the needs of the state, or who provide legitimation's of state policies and practices;

* job opportunities within state bureaucracies for graduates with particular types of training - such as traditional versions of economics;

* direct financing of organisations and individuals by sectors of the state, such as research grants provided by the military;

* establishing the social priority of certain research problems and orientations - such as research into the biochemical basis of cancer rather than reduction of the environmental causes of cancer - and lauding those academics who succeed according to the state's priorities;

* not providing finance or licensing for higher education initiatives which are educationally experimental or politically radical.

These are some of the more overt ways in which groups within the state act to influence higher education. But more important is the role of the structure of the state itself on higher education. The organisational form of the components of the state is bureaucratic, namely based on hierarchy and a division of labour, with work handled according to standard methods of procedure. The provision of finance to higher education, the making of decisions about new institutions or about cutbacks, and the allocation of research funds: all these are usually handled through bureaucratic channels. Academia can most easily mesh with this bureaucratic system by being organised bureaucratically itself, at least at the level of administration and finance. For example, provision and auditing of funding will be much easier for state bureaucrats if they deal with academic bureaucrats rather than some other organisational form such as autocracy or participatory democracy. Also supporting the convergence of state and academic structures is the affinity of individuals high up in the respective hierarchies.

The history and structure of the state and higher education show that both of them are the result of political struggles. Rather than being functional and inevitable, the structure of higher education is continually 'negotiated' within a system of power in which the state is a key factor.

Academic adaptation to state funding

Far from resisting the provision of state finance, most members of the academic community are so completely accustomed to it that no major alternative is contemplated. This applies not only to academic administrators but also to most staff and students. The standard refrain from the academy is "give us more money": lower fees, more student grants, higher academic salaries, more research funding, expansion of facilities, new departments and campuses, etc. The basic issue for academics is not whether state finance is a good thing, but how to obtain the finance while minimising the control by the state over decision-making within academia.

I once thought I had found a true academic opponent of state funding when I came across a colleague waving his paycheque and crying out "This is tainted". But it turned out that he was only complaining about the machinations of the university pay office which had transformed a minor pay increment into a reduction in net salary. He was drunk, of course.

The basic reason why there is no substantial opposition to state finance is that there is no other source of large-scale funding which provides equal autonomy for the academic community. Although the state does have its own interests, it also mediates the interests of other powerful groups which have more narrow concerns about the uses of higher education. Compared to being totally financed by churches or capitalists, the state offers more leeway for academics to pursue what they see as academic concerns.

Another basic reason why there is no substantial opposition to state finance is that there are no attractive self-sufficient alternatives. If academics raised their income from direct payments by students - which was the case for example with Oxbridge tutors in the 1800s - the pay would be less for most academics, and their autonomy would also be less due to the need to avoid offending current and potential students and their parents.

Within academic research and curricula, there is no major strand of thought which provides a critique of the state provision of higher education. Marxism, the major radical perspective which has gained a foothold in academia, provides a critique only of the capitalist state, not of the state per se. Most Marxists mainly want to change the political and economic control of the state, not the state structure itself.

Rather than trying to build alternatives to state financing and regulation, academics have attempted to tie themselves to the state by orienting their teaching and research to state interests. 'Policy relevance' is a touchstone within many academic programmes.

Many academics have a broad sympathy for bureaucracy and the state because of their orientation to 'rational planning', namely the administration of people's lives by managers exercising intellectual skills. Technocratic administration gives academics a more important role in society, both in training specialists to administer society and in consulting for or joining the technocrats themselves. This is one reason why many Western intellectuals have been attracted to state socialism, where there are no capitalists to compete with the 'rational management' of society by the state.

Trends influencing state-higher education relations

A key characteristic of contemporary societies is the ever-increasing intensity of the creation, dissemination and use of knowledge. This applies in many spheres: in the economy, in the military, in communications and indeed in education itself. The increasing dependence of modern economies, militaries and cultures on knowledge has been a factor in the great expansion of student numbers in higher education. (Another factor has been parental and student demands for advanced training as a basis for individual social mobility.) This expansion has had several consequences for the relation of higher education and the state.

First, there has been a reduction of the upper class exclusiveness of undergraduate education. Those individuals whose social background prepares them for elite positions are now less distinguished by mere participation in higher education. Graduation from particular elite institutions and also higher degrees are now more important as a basis of legitimation of elite status. Social stratification is reflected in the stratification of higher education.

Second, the increase in student numbers has facilitated the increased role of bureaucracy in education, especially through the great increase in size of many campuses and through the increased role of the state in establishing and overseeing new institutions.

Third, increased participation means increased cost of higher education, which has largely been borne by the state. This has increased pressures for accountability of academic institutions to the state.

Finally, the high rate of change in knowledge and in the occupational structure has meant that once-through education as a 'preparation for life' has become more and more irrelevant. As a result there are more 'mature age' students and pressures to introduce 'lifelong education'. Some professions also push for ongoing training to maintain standards and exclusiveness. Some state elites are likely to demand academic adaptation to this trend.

Another key feature of industrial societies is the breakdown of traditional social relationships. Not only has the extended family largely dissolved, but even the notorious nuclear family is frequently becoming a set of individuals partaking in short term relationships. Old allegiances to church and traditional mores are crumbling in the face of the spread of secular knowledge and mass communication. Ties to the local community and to workmates are weakening in the face of geographical and occupational mobility which is forced on people by the economic system.

Traditional ties are being replaced by new forms of interaction, of which the most important is bureaucracy on the job and mass consumption of centrally produced goods and entertainments. Many forms of social support - unemployment payments for example - are now provided by the state rather than by local institutions. The expansion of the role of the state, and of the role of bureaucratic administration, leads to a pressure and an incentive for academia to join in this process by training people for administration in the widest sense - including welfare, merchandising of products and lifestyles, and entertainment, as well as workplace management - and for developing knowledge and techniques to aid this administration.

Traditional knowledge was imbued with traditional social assumptions, such as the proper role of peasants or women. Much contemporary knowledge is imbued with social assumptions about the technocratic management of society.

These changes are also influencing the internal power structures of academic institutions. There is a shift in decision-making power from lower to higher levels: from professors, departments and faculties to government and academic bureaucracies staffed by full-time administrators. The top-level administrators monopolise the most important policy decisions while delegating responsibility for detailed decisions to lower levels. The policy process as a whole is more formalised, ensuring that things go through the 'proper channels'.

At the same time, there is increased formal participation by previously excluded groups such as sub-professorial academic staff, non-academic staff and students. For example, they may have representatives on governing bodies and faculty committees. This increased formal participation is closely connected with increased bureaucratic control: governments and academic administrations can break traditional professorial power by mobilising support for student participation, equal opportunity or occupational health and safety measures. What is happening is a gradual breakdown in the previous feudal power system within academia and the expansion of bureaucratic power.

One thing is quite clear. Once an educational system is centralised, ruling elites will not decentralise it voluntarily since that would mean relinquishing power. The Soviet rulers did not decentralise the Czarist educational system, and neither did the post World War II Italian governments decentralise the centralised system organised by the fascists. This gives some idea of the difficulties in reversing the present trends towards bureaucratised higher education.

Expansion and contraction

Institutions of higher education have expanded in size for many decades. From 1900, the trend in the United States has been for the proportion of the post-secondary population participating in tertiary education to approximately double every twenty years. But within this overall trend there are periods of greater or lesser expansion. It is useful to contrast the expansionary 1960s in EngIish-speaking countries to the contraction in the 1980s.

In a period of economic expansion, some social groups have more money. Parents are likely to demand educational opportunities for their children because they correctly perceive that access to privileged occupations depends more on credentials than on knowledge (without credentials) or experience. One reason that state elites move so readily to expand funding of higher education in this situation is because it is electorally popular. Another reason is to pre-empt alternatives, such as corporate training programmes or a shift to private institutions. The state can afford to increase funding of higher education because of the economic expansion. Often in such periods there are increased opportunities for innovation in higher education. Aspirations of many groups are increased, and academic programmes are set up to deal with pressing social issues. Black studies programmes set up in the late 1960s in the US are one example. While the rapid expansion increased the opportunity for innovation, arguably this served as much to coopt dissent as to institutionalise radical programmes.

By the mid 1970s the boom years had come to a close as the economic situation deteriorated. Governments cut back on higher education expenditure; in most areas there was an oversupply of graduates in a period of stagnating employment. The most dramatic example is Britain since 1979. The cutbacks had several effects on academia. The most fundamental was increased adaptation to state priorities (otherwise known as the 'national interest'). Without much overt direction from the state, academics began declaiming the relevance of their work to state and corporate needs. Rather than becoming more critical of state control, academics tried to show that they were worthy of the state's support.

The cutbacks have also stymied initiatives towards more equal social participation in higher education. Student intake became more restricted; staff in insecure positions - notably women - lost their jobs or their career prospects.

In both times - expansion and contraction - there has been a gradual increase in state bureaucratic control over higher education. In the period of expansion, increased funding itself helped institutionalise the state's role. Also, the increased size of institutions meant increased bureaucratisation internally as well as for meshing with state bureaucracies. The period of contraction has led to increased influence by the state via the demand for management of limited funds. British authorities 'suggested' particular programmes for cuts, and also moved to change contracts for new staff to allow dismissal of tenured staff due to financial constraints.

No doubt some of the moves by the Conservative government in Britain were taken to undercut the power of the left in academia. But the squeeze on higher education in Australia has continued under the Labor government since 1983, again with the effect of inducing academics to orient their activities to the state and corporations.

These moves have led to the forming of opposition. British academics, especially through the national union, organised themselves to vocally protest against the cuts, organise mass action, build public support and form alliances with groups such as trade unions. Applying the squeeze on higher education thus has the dual result of increasing the subservience of many academics and of mobilising them in alliance with other groups.

Alternatives to state funding

As noted before, currently there is no serious alternative to state funding of higher education. The main concern on both sides is negotiating the terms of the relationship. Here are some alternatives to state funding, and why they are not seen as attractive by academies and other groups.

* Dominant funding by corporations, churches or professions. There are few groups in society with the economic resources to fund higher education at its present scale. None of the possible contenders - especially corporations - are very attractive to academics since there would be much tighter controls over their work. Any form of mono-integration would be opposed by other groups which presently have some influences over or benefit from state-financed higher education.

* Doing things that cost less. This option involves cutting down on high-cost activities. Examples are shifting away from capital-intensive scientific research or giving students less formal teaching and more autonomy in pursuing their studies. While cutting down on 'big science' would reduce academic dependence on the state, it would also reduce the state's dependence on the expertise of academies. Giving students more autonomy would reduce the power of academies over them. 'Small is beautiful' is not attractive to groups seeking higher salaries and increased social status in a stratified society.

* Self-financing by fees. Tuition and other student fees at the moment supply only a fraction of the financial support for higher education. If fees were to become the primary source of income, this would lead to reduced academic salaries, and also reduced enrolments and academic employment since only a minority could afford increased fees. This is not attractive to academics. State control over education would be undercut, and popular opposition would be enormous.

* Self-financing by direct production. Higher education could take place in conjunction with factories, agriculture, consulting and other direct means for self-financing. The production would most logically be carried out by both staff and students, and be integrated into the learning process. This has been state policy at times in some Third World countries, notably China.

A few academic programmes of 'education with production' have been going on for decades in industrialised societies, but their successes have seldom been noticed, let alone emulated. A key function of higher education is licensing graduates for occupations with restricted entry. This has little to do with what is learned. Vocational education is widely seen as low status; it is provided mainly for those who have dropped out of the academic stream.

Education with production is not attractive to the state or corporations since an independent source of economic power would be established. Nor would academics be enthusiastic. Lucrative consulting in addition to normal salaries is one thing; stooping to direct production is another.

* Deinstitutionalisation. If institutions of higher education were abolished, the same training could take place in a range of situations, such as factories, neighbourhoods, churches, professional study groups and learning networks. This would eliminate the direct role of most academics. It would not necessarily reduce the influence of groups such as capitalists, since the interest groups dominant in the local contexts in which learning took place would have a strong influence on the form and content of learning. The state would still exert a strong influence on education, but educational bureaucrats would lose their direct control.


Margaret Scotford Archer, Social origins of educational systems (London: Sage, 1979). A macro-sociological perspective on educational systems, stressing the role of the state, of competing interests and of historical background.

Margaret Scotford Archer (ed.), Students, university and society: a comparative sociological review (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1972). Chapters on higher education in different countries, especially in relation to students.

Patricia Broadfoot, Colin Brock and Witold Tulasiewicz (eds), Politics and educational change: an international survey (London: Croom Helm, 1981). Articles dealing with states and educational systems.

Robert Nisbet, The degradation of the academic dogma: the university in America, 1945-1970 (New York: Basic Books, 1971). A biting attack on the state and on its role in directly funding the research of individual academics and thus destroying the medieval-type university.

Val D. Rust, Alternatives in education: theoretical and historical perspectives (London: Sage, 1977). An outline of the historical development of the varied social dimensions and current crisis of 'modernity' as they have impacted on education.

John H. Van de Graaff, Burton R. Clark, Dorotea Furth, Dietrich Goldschmidt and Donald F. Wheeler, Academic power: patterns of authority in seven national systems of higher education (New York: Praeger, 1978). An analysis and comparison of formal authority relationships in different countries.

On the acquiescence of the academic and scientific community to state imperatives, see Jonathan Feldman, Universities in the business of repression: the academic-military-industrial complex and Central America (Boston: South End Press, 1989); Carol S. Gruber, Mars and Minerva: World War I and the uses of the higher learning in America (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1975); Joseph Haberer, Politics and the community of science (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1969).