The commodification of higher education in the welfare state of Sweden: exploring the possibilities

Tolofari, Sowaribi Victor (2008) The commodification of higher education in the welfare state of Sweden: exploring the possibilities. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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For about three decades now the world’s economic systems have mainly embraced a neoliberal paradigm. The precept of this paradigm is, more egocentric than the capitalist philosophy of homo economicus, that it is not enough to have the market determine all human or institutional relations, but that there should be nothing which is not the market. Neoliberalism would see surrendered to the market to be commodified all the services communally provided for its citizens by the state, such as healthcare and education. Neoliberalism and its many approaches mount formidable pressure on states to fall to its sway. The environment created by neoliberalism is a challenge to states, like Sweden, that still believe in the central provision of essential social services so that the enjoyment of such services would not depend on the economic status of the individual citizen, because in the long run the state would benefit from having it so. This research studied, given this environment, whether the provision of higher education in the welfare state of Sweden could be commodified.

An extensive review of relevant literature was done to define the problem and establish a theoretical frame. From there a questionnaire was designed and administered to Swedish universities. The responses were used to formulate questions for semi-structured interviews with parliamentarians and university vice-chancellors.

The research found, among other things, a transformation from an inward-looking system to one of increasing globalisation; from detailed state planning and control to a broad degree of freedoms to act. There is a lack of desire for universities to be fully independent of the state; a desire for broadened entrepreneurialism, especially in the areas of conversion of research results into products and co-operation with the private sector. There are statutes that hinder some entrepreneurial activities or limit the universities’ ability to make money from them; a vehement stand against the commodification of higher education for natives, but qualified openness for some categories of foreign students paying for their education in the country. There is diminished solidarity-thinking and the use of global educational contacts as a means to support the country’s export sector.

There is no indication that the possibility exists in the foreseeable future for higher education in Sweden to move from the sphere of public good to private good since an overwhelming majority of those most closely associated with legislation, policy formulation and execution are against the commodification of higher education.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: higher education, commodification, entrepreneurialism, tuition fees, swedish higher education, Högskoleverket, Sweden, higher educational institutions, non-EEA students, neo-liberalism, marketisation, education as a public good, education as a private good, education as a commodity
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Matthew, Professor Robert and Burns, Dr. George
Date of Award: 2008
Depositing User: Mr Sowaribi V. Tolofari
Unique ID: glathesis:2008-485
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 20 Nov 2008
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:19

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