Accepted Paper:

An agora of policy worlds? Reconceptualising university reform  
Gritt B. Nielsen (Ã…rhus University)

Paper short abstract:

Taking as its point of departure the current Danish university reforms and the changing conditions for students, this paper suggests a methodological framework for working with university reform and higher education policies as objects of anthropological enquiry.

Paper long abstract:

In its etymological meaning the word university refers to a 'whole' - a whole of students and staff belonging to some kind of academic community. Today, in the name of growth and development, universities all over the western world are being reformed so as to be more competitive on the global market of knowledge. Such changes introduce new international 'policy worlds' that both affect the 'whole' of universities and demand new ways of conceptualising the anthropological field.

Taking as its point of departure the current Danish university reforms and the changing conditions for students, this paper suggests a methodological framework for working with university reform and higher education policies as objects of anthropological enquiry. Management reforms and changed societal demands on universities, staff and students are characterising the present Danish university scene. The Danish University Act (2003) reduced students' democratic voice, while their power as consumers seems to increase with the growing market in Higher Education. New technologies are being introduced (e.g. tuition fees, new types of course evaluations and course structures), which aim to construe students in new ways. To grasp such changes and its effects on institutional 'wholes' I am advocating a notion of the field as an Agora: an amorphous and changeable space; a network of negotiation and exchange which, however, is not restricted to social relations between individual human actors, but also consists, for example, of law texts, keywords and technologies. In other words, the concept of Agora enables anthropologists to engage critically with the changing policy worlds of universities.

Panel W009
Policy worlds