1st Edition

The Philosophy of Higher Education A Critical Introduction

By Ronald Barnett Copyright 2022
    300 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    300 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

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    Providing a comprehensive introduction to the philosophy of higher education this book steps nimbly through the field, leading it into new areas and advancing an imaginative ecological realism.

    Each chapter takes the form of a short essay, tackling a particular topic such as values, knowledge, teaching, critical thinking and social justice. It also examines key issues including academic freedom, the digital university and the Anthropocene, and draws on classic as well as contemporary texts in the field.

    Composed of five parts, the book travels on a compelling journey:

    • Part one identifies foundations of the field, distinguishing between the ideas of university and higher education,
    • Part two examines key concepts, including research, culture, academic freedom and reason,
    • Part three focuses on higher education as a set of educational practices and being a student,
    • Part four is concerned with the university as an institution and includes the matters of leadership and the spirit of the university,
    • Part five turns to the university in the world, and argues for an ecological perspective.

    Written in a lively and accessible style, and ideal for anyone coming to the field for the first time but also of interest to experienced scholars, this book offers sightings of new possibilities for higher education and the university. 

    Part One: Foundations  1. The philosophy of higher education  2. Higher education and university: conflicts on the three planes  3. Values and higher education, and ethical evolution  4. Knowledge and truth: matters of interest  Part II: Key concepts  5. Research: towards an ecological transdisciplinarity  6. Culture: sighting a culture of constructive argument (CCA)  7. Academic freedom – and academic responsibility  8. Thought and reason - and their dilemmas  Part III: Teaching, learning and the student  9. Teaching: a provocative matter  10. Curriculum - making it explicit  11. Being a student: a committed uncertainty  12. Critical thinking: the three crazy escalators  Part IV: The university as an institution  13. The place of the university  14. The spirit of the university  15. Academic leadership and management – and keeping clear water between them  16. Time, space and the digital university  Part V: Higher education and the world  17. Higher education and the university: two very public matters  18. The lure of engagement: traps for the unwary  19. Social justice - and onwards to ecological justice  20. Beyond the Anthropocene


    Ronald Barnett is Emeritus Professor of Higher Education, University College London Institute of Education, UK.

    "For several decades, Ron Barnett has been provoking those with an interest in higher education to think long and hard about the idea of higher education and prompting us to reflect critically and imaginatively on its contribution to society. This text is no exception. In his inimitable, imaginative, engaging and thought-provoking manner, he weaves a powerful and persuasive narrative that does not shy away from espousing a normative attitude, provoking consideration of big ideas as well as their practical implications for policy-makers, academics and students alike. The text invites us to become partners in the endeavour of creating ‘feasible utopias’, fostering ‘vibrant motion’ that continuously re-invents the best possible teaching, learning and leading opportunities for higher education for our uncertain times. It is vital that all concerned avail of his invitation to engage in this dialogue. Read it!"
    -Tone Dyrdal Solbrekke, Professor of Higher Education Pedagogy, Department of Education and Centre for Learning, Innovation and Academic Development University of Oslo

    "This new book is a breath-taking and essential overview of scholarship on higher education. Accessible to a range of readers, the work situates higher education within an imaginative, analytical, and practical framework that will appeal to philosophers, social scientists, graduate students, and professionals in the field."
    -Wesley Shumar, Professor, Department of Communication, Graduate Faculty in Communication, Culture & Media, Affiliated Faculty, School of Education, Drexel University, USA

    "Professor Ronald Barnett’s indispensable new guide to The Philosophy of Higher Education: Issues, Debates, Proposals is essential reading, a field-defining tour de force which is suited to multiple audiences, from postgraduate students to senior managers, academic developers and research experts. What sets this fascinating book apart is its comprehensive three-planar critico-imaginative realist perspective, which simultaneously embraces conceptual, social, realist, critical, ecological, imaginative, and practical aspects of higher education. Barnett’s excellent new synoptic resource is highly recommended – a wonderful read for all those wishing to learn more about the field of the philosophy of higher education."
    -Professor Jill Jameson, Chair of Leadership and Enterprise Research and Professor of Education, Institute of Lifecourse Development, Faculty of Education, Health and Human Sciences, University of Greenwich  

    "In a world confronted by conflict, global pandemics, economic uncertainly and climate change, the role of universities and higher education have never been more important or prescient. Despite this, they have themselves become a site of conflict over ideas, possible futures and even the interpretation of history. In a timely, nuanced and insightful way, Ron Barnett provides universities and higher education a philosophical guide in not only confronting such issues, but also showing how they they can lead us to practical and inclusive solutions." 
    -Professor James Arvanitakis, PhD, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Engagement & Advancement), Division of People and Advancement, Western Sydney University

    "The main task of the university is to teach and all those who work and study in such institutions ought to carefully consider what this obligation might mean to them. In this excellent book, Ronald Barnett introduces us to a philosophy of higher education. It is written for a wide audience of university non-specialists and addresses the challenges we face while seeking a theoretical basis for understanding practice. Ronald argues that the sector is not achieving its potential with respect to societal obligations in our turbulent and unpredictable world. We can always do better, and the field of higher education philosophy has something important to offer in support of transforming the way we think."

    -Tony Harland, Professor of Higher Education, Higher Education Development Centre, Chair of the Ecology Programme, University of Otago

    "The Philosophy of Higher Education. A Critical Introduction is a must-read for anyone concerned not only with the higher education past and present, but more importantly — its future. A short review is hardly able to do justice to the breadth of argument and richness of insights encountered throughout the volume. It truly serves its purpose set at the very beginning — turning to a wide set of audiences and making a strong case for a persistence of philosophy in the context of higher education. As such it is an invaluable resource not only to anyone who enters the subfield of philosophy of higher education but also to academic teachers who ponder how to incorporate more philosophical and theoretical themes into their curriculums in higher education research."

    - Jakub Krzeski, Higher Education (Springer)