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The Evolving Discourse of the Purpose of Higher Education: The Rhetoric of Higher Education Reform

The Evolving Discourse of the Purpose of Higher Education: The Rhetoric of Higher Education Reform
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Author(s): Mary Runté (University of Lethbridge Alberta, Canada) and Robert Runté (University of Lethbridge Alberta, Canada)
Copyright: 2017
Pages: 17
Source title: Handbook of Research on Administration, Policy, and Leadership in Higher Education
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Siran Mukerji (Indira Gandhi National Open University, India) and Purnendu Tripathi (Indira Gandhi National Open University, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0672-0.ch021

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Abstract

A brief historical overview of the evolution of the public discourse of the purpose of higher education is undertaken to provide context for current debates over investment in, and reform of, post-secondary education. Four separate discourses are identified: higher education for enlightenment, to develop human capital, as manpower management, and as consumerism. The dominant discourse of the purpose of higher education is shown to have changed from learning for its own sake to an emphasis on manpower planning and consumerism. The separate assumptions and implications of these distinct discourses are often confabulated with little apparent awareness of the contradictory nature of rhetoric drawn from more than one discourse at a time. The authors provide a simple analytical framework to cut through the confusion.

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