The Politics of Neoliberalism in the Higher Education Sector in Bangladesh
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Education
A new phase of higher education in Bangladesh begun in the 1990s in which a remarkable transformation took place in the higher education system, largely based on market-driven economic forces. The government promulgated the Private University Act in 1992, which has been recently repealed in order to enact the new Private University Act 2010. It formulated a twenty-year Strategic Plan for Higher Education 2006-2026 (SPHE) in 2006. Consequently economic as well as political goals became drivers of the higher education system. This transformation informs a set of changes in the higher education sector. Often higher education institutions rely on private investment and the education they offer is shaped in line with the demands of global markets. This thesis explores the degree to which neoliberalism is a prominent feature of the higher education sector in Bangladesh, and the perception of key stakeholders about the influence of hegemonic neoliberal policy on their academic goals. This research is analytic and qualitative in nature. The overall approach is one of critical analysis, applying what is discussed in the international literature about neolibralisism to the higher education sector in Bangladesh. In the first instance I analysed documents from policy makers, commentators and news reporters in Bangladesh and related these to concepts in the internationals discussion of monetarism, global market economy and neolibralism. I then turned to a range of key participants in the sector itself and sought their perceptions through interview in order to fill out the initial document analysis and to ground this discussion in the experiences and understandings of people involved in the sector. The data from these interviews is accompanied by an analysis of further documents relating to the participants’ specific workplaces and once again aligned to the international discourse. The views of participants were sought through interview. A total of twenty-one participants were interviewed under six categories: the University Grant Commission (UGC) and government officials, owners of private universities, politicians and student activists, public and private university authorities and faculty members, education expert and sociologists, and public and private university students. In addition, I searched and analysed a range of documents as further tools for examining the context of the neoliberal agenda within higher education. The findings are structured into four subsections: neoliberal hegemony and ideological transformation of higher education, neoliberalism and knowledge-based economy, neoliberalism in the higher education sector and its structural consequences, and neoliberalism and resistance. The findings suggested that the neoliberal shift in the higher education sector in Bangladesh explicitly changes the overall socio-cultural, political and economical patterns of society. Not only are philosophical and pedagogical aspects of higher education changed through neoliberal policy agenda, but higher education also becomes a most expensive commodity in contemporary Bangladesh. Private universities have evolved with an underlying notion of privatisation of higher education, and the process of marketisation of higher education leads to a vocationalisation of higher education. The notion of 'academic entrepreneur' contributes to the development of discriminatory attitudes between students, and between teachers. Profit motivated higher education is adversely impacting on the critical insight of the young generation. The neoliberal policy shift within higher education sector is also leading to large-scale violence in higher education institutions.