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EPOKE - Education, Organisation and Policy in the Knowledge Economy

Transnational agencies (OECD, Bologna Process, EU, World Bank, World Trade Organisation, UNESCO) proclaim that the future lies in a global knowledge-based economy and society.

They argue that a country's wealth depends on the speed with which it develops and acts upon new ideas for products, develops new ways of organising in network enterprises, and generates a high skills workforce of graduates with the intellectual and personal skills to be 'knowledge workers'.

These policies are advocated both for OECD countries to sustain their global advantage; and for Third World countries to shake off their disadvantage. They give universities and education a central role in driving all aspects of this economy - knowledge, organisation and pedagogy - and have prompted a frenzy of reforms worldwide.

Through sociological, historical and ethnographic research this programme explores critically changes associated with the emergence of a global knowledge-based economy and society through three inter-related contexts:

  • Comparative inter/national policies 
  • New forms of organisation and their pedagogies
  • Academic practices - university and further education, research and  knowledge dissemination

Inter/national policies to develop a global knowledge-based economy -their global travel and local negotiation

Transnational agencies will be studied to trace the historical development, and contestation, of policies which imagine and try to bring about a global knowledge-based economy and society and new forms of transnational governance. 

  • How have policies to reform universities and education travelled round the world and interacted with national reform agendas?
  • How, comparatively, have these policies been taken up in first world countries, emerging economies and third world countries?
  • How have these countries engaged with the policies? assumptions and possible contradictions?
  • How do universities, in their organisational and physical forms, project a new role for themselves on local and global scales? 

New forms of organisation - their migration between private and public sectors, including universities, and their pedagogies

Central to the idea of a global knowledge-based economy is the shift from Fordist to network enterprises in which a small core of strategic managers contract out work to fast changing project teams and independent suppliers.

The OECD propounds this as a model for the whole of the public sector, including universities, to align them, as suppliers of knowledge and 'flexible' workers, with network enterprises.

  • How do such forms of organising change as they migrate between private companies, public services and universities?
  • What images of the new worker and of work-life do they entail?
  • What pedagogies are embedded in these new ways of organising and how do managers, professionals, employees and customers/clients/students engage with the values of performance, accountability and flexibility?
  • What kinds of opportunities and stresses do these forms of self-organising generate?

University teaching, research and knowledge dissemination, as shaped by these organisational and policy contexts

Within these policy and organisational contexts, how is academic work practiced, in terms of research, teaching and knowledge dissemination?

Ethnographies of learning and teaching will aim to understand and reflect critically on how students and academics are negotiating with ever-changing discourses, organisational forms and policy expectations about higher and further education.

Detailed and comparative studies of research practices will explore how the sciences and humanities are responding to changes in institutional contexts and the politics of knowledge as well as to the new criteria of relevance and expectations of the surrounding society.