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Privatization, casualization global trends in higher education

Casualization brings poor working conditions, low wages and a decline in qualifications of academic staff.

by Penni Stewart, CAUT Bulletin

September 7, 2009 — Privatization, diversification and casualization are the global trends in higher education, according to speakers at the UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education earlier this summer in Paris. The conference brought together ministers, heads of state, and representatives of the OECD, World Bank, NGOs and student movements to reflect on the state of higher education around the globe. CAUT associate executive director David Robinson and I were part of the Education International delegation.

Speaker after speaker reminded us that we are in the midst of a revolution driven by a surge in demand for education that began 50 years ago in North America, but has accelerated over the past decade in India, China, East Asia and Latin America. There are now more than 150 million students at post-secondary institutions worldwide, a figure that represents a 53 percent increase since 2000.

As escalating demand for higher education outstrips their ability and willingness to pay, governments have reduced per-student funding, increasingly differentiated educational institutions by status and function and increased reliance on short-term and contractual teaching staff. Privatization enters as post-secondary institutions around the world find themselves searching for funds. The search for external funding has also pushed post-secondary institutions to recruit international students and to become branch plant and offshore operators.

For the rich countries of North America, Western Europe and Australia, international enrolment is an important source of revenue, and this form of globalization has more than 2.5 million students studying abroad. Accompanying this is the exodus of skilled teachers that afflicts poor and developing nations.

Higher education is becoming one of the most casualized professions internationally, perhaps second only to retail services. Fixed-term academic staff are the majority of post-secondary teachers in many countries, as much as 80 percent in Latin America. Casualization has led to poor working conditions, low wages and a decline in the qualifications of academic staff...

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Penni Stewart is President of the Canadian Association of University Teachers.

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  Surging Demand for Education Creating Global Concern, by Penni Stewart, CAUT Bulletin, September 7 2009

Posted: September 27, 2009

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