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The University and the State in Europe. The Uncertain Future of the Traditional Social Contract
globalization and higher education
Higher Education Policy
Welfare state policy
idea of the university
Forthcoming in: Ronald Barnett and Michael Peters, eds, The Global University, volume 2, New York: Peter Lang, 2015, pp. 2-21.
Europe is witnessing general attempts at a reformulation of the post-war social contract which gave rise to the welfare state as we know it (with public higher education as we know it). I argue here for a strong thesis according to which Europe is facing the simultaneous renegotiation of the postwar social contract concerning the welfare state and the accompanying renegotiation of a smaller-scale, by comparison, modern social pact between the university and the nation-state. The renegotiation of the (nation) state/ university pact is not clear outside of the context of the changing welfare state contract, as state-funded higher education formed one of the bedrocks of the European welfare system in its major forms, and state-funded higher education remains one of its foundations. I am following here Stephan Leibfried and colleagues who argue that “competitive pressure to lower tax rates undermines the state’s resources and has the potential to unleash financial crises that, in turn, trigger cuts in welfare spending” (Hurrelmann et al. 2007: 7). Consequently, what they term “the golden-age "onstellation” of the four components of the state (the territorial state, the constitutional state, the democratic welfare state and the interventionist state) is currently threatened: “different state functions are threatened to a greater or lesser degree, and subjected to pressures for internationalization of varying intensity” (Hurrelmann et al. 2007: 9). I argue here that higher education policies, and especially public funding for universities, are one of the dimensions of the “golden-age constellation” under renegotiations in Europe today: they come under the “interventionist state” and its functions in Leibfried’s formulation.
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