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Does policy failure in higher education lead to policy learning?
Please note: Afternoon tea will be provided following this session at Clayton campus
Clayton attendees please RSVP to Emily.Kersing@monash.edu by Friday 19 October.
In higher education, as in public policy more generally, the terms ‘policy failure’ and ‘policy learning’ present conceptual, methodological and empirical difficulties. When does one know when policies have failed? Is the assessment of success or failure of particular policies a matter of social perception or political judgement rather than empirical reality? Similarly, how does one know when policy learning has taken place, by whom, what they learn and with what consequences for policy change? More fundamental again is how individual policies are to be identified in the first place, given that policymaking is essentially a process of bricolage in which policies are reworked and inflected through complex processes of influence in diverse contexts of practice.
Policy production and contextualisation in contemporary higher education is a significant source of complexity, with universities and colleges brought behind national strategies to increase economic competitiveness and social cohesion as well as attend to local particularities and global processes. Examples of high-level and long-range policies are taken from English higher education between 1997 and 2010 when consecutive Labour governments set goals and targets to (1) expand and widen participation, (2) change the pattern of demand for undergraduate education and (3) extend the higher education role of further education colleges. The career of these policies is reviewed to distinguish between policy failures around which there is widespread agreement and where there is less accord; and, secondly, to distinguish between the learning of state and non-state actors.
Gareth Parry is Professor of Education and Director of the Centre for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Sheffield in the UK. His research focuses on policy, access and participation, and system changes in higher education.
Professor Parry is proudly hosted by the Globalisation, Education and Work Faculty Research Group.
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