The OECD and its influence in higher education: a critical revision

Alberto Amaral, Guy Neave

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

    15 Citations (Scopus)


    Of late, education has become the stamping ground both for globalization and for the application of new right policies. Together, these constructs amount to “an increasing colonization of education policy by economic policy imperatives” (Ball 1998, 12). In Western Europe, they have radically altered the concordat between university and society (Nybom 2008). They mark a further stage in moving the functions of the university away from the social and cultural dimensions with which it was long identified, the better to play up its economic role and responsibilities. Such changes are not simply structural. They involve fundamental alterations in ideology, in values (Neave 1988a, 273-283), and last, but very far from least, a transmutation in the relationship between the institution of higher education and the state. There is, in short, a widening gap between economic development and democratic accountability (Neave 1997, 22). Beyond Europe, similar policy developments at system level appear to be sprouting across the planet (Samoff and Carrol 2006; Tilak 2006, 235-254). Impatience with academia’s long-established norms and values, the advocacy of higher education’s economic mission and purpose, the rise at institutional level of “New Managerialism” (Kogan 2004), the “professionalization” of university management, the weight and influence of external stakeholders (Enders and Fulton 2000, 11-38), the diversification of funding, the imposition of evaluation by performance criteria, inextricably tied in with economic productivity, the incessant theme of “relevance” in both teaching and research, all represent the central credos in the new theology of higher education globalizing. Yet, this picture cannot be explained solely by evoking “the functional, national-cultural or rational-instrumental theories that have dominated the study of education systems or the curriculum hitherto” (Dale 2000, 9). Against such a background, this chapter concentrates on the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and its role in shaping national policies for tertiary education. Changes in the OECD’s ideological agenda, the education policies that follow, its modus operandi, and ways of presenting findings and prescriptions are dissected and analyzed by comparing the thematic reports and national reviews of education across some four decades.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationInternational Organizations and Higher Education Policy
    Subtitle of host publicationThinking Globally, Acting Locally?
    EditorsRoberta Malee Bassett, Alma Maldonado-Maldonado
    ISBN (Electronic)9781135854379
    ISBN (Print)9780415990431
    Publication statusPublished - 2009

    Publication series

    NameInternational Studies in Higher Education


    • METIS-302464

    Cite this