1st Edition

The Privatisation of Higher Education in Postcolonial Bangladesh The Politics of Intervention and Control

By Ariful H. Kabir, Raqib Chowdhury Copyright 2021
    174 Pages
    by Routledge

    174 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book problematises contemporary realities of the political dimension of the privatisation of higher education in Bangladesh. By exploring the complexities of neoliberalism as an economic and ideological doctrine, a mode of governance, and as a policy package, it considers the ‘post’ attached to and hyphenated with ‘colonialism’ as more aspirational than achieved. Based on an interdisciplinary study involving contemporary theories from political and social sciences, economics, and the socio-economics of education, the book explores the unique ways in which Bangladeshi higher education has evolved over the past four decades, and the complex politics behind its privatisation. Through an empirically based account of how neoliberalism has worked its way through the higher education sector in the fastest growing economy in the South Asian context, it discusses how changes have been characterised by policy reforms, massification, and a sustained friction between control and autonomy in the university sector.

    The authors take a nuanced approach to their geo-political and onto-epistemological positionalities as diasporic and hybridised scholars by rejecting epistemological exclusion inherent in the colonial present and research conducted in such contexts. This position allows the reinforcement of a colonial present, theorising from within Global South decolonial and postcolonial research literature.

    This book contributes to discourses of ‘globalisation from above’ and ‘globalisation from below’ and sheds light on the often-idiosyncratic ways in which higher education reform has unfolded in South Asia. It will be of interest to comparative educators and those researching higher education policy and education developments in Global South nations.

     1 Privatisation of higher education - humble beginnings. 2 Neoliberalism, postcolonialism and global higher education trends. 3 Privatisation of higher education: Contemporary trends and issues in Asian countries. 4 Financial modes of Higher Education in Bangladesh: Politics, power and control. 5 Governance system of Higher Education in Bangladesh. 6 Quality Control Mechanisms: Rhetoric vs. Reality. 7 Higher Education in the Private Sector: ‘For-profit’ vs. ‘not for-profit’. 8 The politics of neoliberal planning in public higher education: The case of Jagannath University. 9 Conclusion. References


    Ariful H. Kabir teaches sociology of education and teacher education in the Institute of Education and Research at the University of Dhaka. He has Masters degrees in Sociology and in Education and a PhD in Education, and researches into micro-politics, network governance and education policy formulation, critical pedagogy, teacher education, higher education and international education.

    Raqib Chowdhury teaches TESOL, bilingualism and sociolinguistics in the Faculty of Education at Monash University. He has Masters degrees in English Literature and in TESOL, a PhD in Education, and researches into culture and pedagogy, teacher education, TESOL, international education, identity and critical ethnography.

    Who is higher education for? What ends should it serve? Who should pay for it and control its processes? These are questions that have become increasingly significant globally as various forms of academic capitalism develop in response to interplays of national politics, business interests and tertiary institutions’ growth strategies. The forms of academic capitalism and the forces that shape it, however, are not globally identical. This book examines the privatisation of higher education in Bangladesh, using postcolonial perspectives to investigate and problematise the roles played by historical and current power and politics. The authors, who describe themselves as "socioeconomically and culturally privileged, Western-educated, male, Bangladeshi-Australians" bring their lived experience of formative years and early careers in Bangladesh and of doctoral and postdoctoral studies and university teaching in Australia to the research, and utilise this hybrid identity to encompass analytic perspectives from both Global North and Global South. This fusion offers a rich exploration of an education system that is local but is impacted by global ideologies and pressures.  They provide a detailed and complex analysis that invites further questioning about higher education within Bangladesh and beyond

    Professor Janinka Greenwood, School of Teacher Education, University of Canterbury

    Higher education in Bangladesh has a colonial inheritance dating back to the 19th century when, as part of the British Raj, its colleges gave instructions in English with the expectation that the students would be exposed to Western knowledge and value systems and would function as interpreters between the colonisers and those they governed. The University of Dhaka, established in 1921, was modelled after Oxford University, and the Department of English Literature and Language was one of the first to be set up, well before such departments were opened even in British universities. The inception of the university at a time when strong anti-colonial movements were raging in the province however, meant that it quickly assumed the role the people expected it to do - jump start a resistance movement and mobilise the newly risen middle class for independence. It was no wonder that during the Pakistani rule from 1947 to 1971, the university was at the forefront of the resistance movement against cultural and political domination.

    After the liberation of the country in December 1971, the government prepared an education policy (in 1974) that fairly adequately addressed the new postcolonial realities, but after the brutal regime change in 1975 it was scuttled and the country’s higher education continued with the same paradigm followed since the 19th century.  For the next several decades, there have been sporadic attempts to formulate a new education policy, but even the latest one, adopted in 2010 but quickly forgotten, is a pale shadow of the 1974 policy. And if the colonial entanglements were hard to get rid of, the situation was compounded by the arrival of private providers of education in the 1980s emboldened by the mantras of new liberalism and the free market economy. With the involvement of International Financial Institutions and the promise of overseas investments and the much-touted New Public Management practices, the higher education scene is now breathlessly proceeding towards a policy model for which our higher education is neither pedagogically, nor culturally prepared. Countries like Bangladesh, forever at the receiving end of theories and models prepared in the West, cannot define or redefine the market, dictate the terms of engagement to private providers and smart investors or negotiate the details of corporatisation of higher education to our advantage. The result is a mismatch between our needs and cultural practices and the imperatives of the new knowledge economy to which we must now belong. For educational policy makers, administrators, fund providers, stakeholders and researchers of the higher education scene in Bangladesh, a comprehensive study of its various trends and practices and its theoretical and conceptual underpinnings is essential for steering it towards a truly postcolonial direction. This book is precisely the kind of research document that can help them understand both the imperatives of change for making our higher education truly meaningful and the dangers of embracing a new liberal educational paradigm in a country where situations of its implementation are far from ideal. The authors take us through the rather messy history of higher education in our country and places it in the present geopolitical context and show how politics, power and control shape our policies rather than the actual and felt need of its people. The strength of the book is its ability to place the higher education debates within a conceptual framework and its critical questioning of both state level interventions and involvement of private actors for a nuanced understanding of what really can work to bring the desired change in our higher education.   

    Syed Manzoorul Islam, Professor of English and Humanities, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh

    Amid growing debates about massification, neoliberalism, and privatization of higher education, Arif Kabir and Raqib Chowdhury have produced a rare gem examining the privatization of higher education in the fastest growing economy in the South Asian context, Bangladesh. Drawing on postcolonialism, it brilliantly examines how colonizer-colonized power relations, derived from the past, morph, change and linger in current Bangladeshi higher education policy affairs through complex networks of regional actors, transnational actors, the government, and higher education institutions. Both the successes and failures of various actors in implementing neoliberal policies have something to teach us about the growing privatization of higher education in Global South contexts. I most highly recommend this book

     Riyad Shahjahan, Associate Professor, Department of Educational Administration, Michigan State University