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Privatisation and commercialization: two globalizing practices affecting Australian universities

Currie, J. (2005) Privatisation and commercialization: two globalizing practices affecting Australian universities. In: Arimoto, A., Huang, F. and Yokoyama, K., (eds.) Globalization and higher education. Research Institute for Higher Education, Hiroshima University, Higashi, Hiroshima, pp. 23-37.


The fundamental force underpinning neoliberal globalisation is the privatisation of the economy. It is commonly understood that this movement to shift substantial resources from the public sector to the private sector began simultaneously in the United States with the Reagan government and in the United Kingdom with the Thatcher government. From these two countries, privatisation, sometimes referred to as economic rationalism or applying market forces to public sector agencies, spread to other Anglo-derived countries, such as Canada, New Zealand and Australia, and then to many other countries around the world. However, it is noteworthy that many European countries have resisted this trend towards privatisation, especially in regard to universities. An important distinction can be made between the privatisation and the commercialisation of higher education; nevertheless, the fact that there is an interaction between privatisation and commercialisation makes it difficult to untangle the impetus for these practices in universities. Both of these globalising forces are affecting Australia's higher education sector as public universities become more like private institutions and the locus of funding shifts from the taxpayer to students and their families. This privatisation process has been accompanied by commercial behaviour that may put Australia's research base at risk. This article addresses the impact of these two globalising forces on the quality of education and academic freedom in Australian universities. It argues that there is a greater chance that research will be curiosity-driven and critical education will thrive if profit is not the major determinant of university research and teaching agendas. To protect the independence of research and the enviable reputation that Australian universities currently have in providing high quality education, the Commonwealth government may need to reduce its drive to privatise universities and commercialise research.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Publisher: Research Institute for Higher Education, Hiroshima University
Publisher's Website:
Notes: RIHE International Publication Series, No. 9
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