Symposium – Higher Education as a Public Good

PaTHES and Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia (PESA)

Central European Summer TIME (CEST/UTC+2) = March 28th 2023, 20.00-21.30

Melbourne (AEDT) = Wednesday 29th March, 6.00am

Auckland (NZDT) = Wednesday 29th March, 8.00am

The recording of the event is available here

In a now classic explication of public goods, Paul Samuelson (1947, 1954) distinguishes between private consumption goods and collective consumption goods. Samuelson’s basic definition is that a public good is one that – having been produced for a given individual or group of individuals – can be consumed by more than those for whom it was initially intended at no extra cost. This is also known as being nonrivalrous. Another traditional characteristic of a public good is that it is non-excludable; anyone can receive its benefits. The two primary characteristics of public goods make them unamenable to market production or, at least, quite difficult to deal with through market processes.

How should we re-examine this theory, especially as it applies to education? How can we rethink the public generally and public goods specifically and how have these notions changed over the last half century? Do we need to reconsider them in late capitalism?

Universities, as traditionally viewed as connected to the idea of the public good, are navigating between various expectations of knowledge production, impact, and societal partnership – not all purely linked to the notion of public goods. Universities and higher education programmes have been accused of consumerism, protectionism, extractivism and neo-nationalism. Does the idea of the university as a societal and cultural institution need to be re-enacted and perhaps even re-thought? How can thinking about higher education or the university as a public good inform such re-enactment?

For this symposium, we have sought proposals that address these kinds of question and, ultimately, how such examinations inform where and how higher education fits as public goods, if they do. While not an exclusive list, we have welcomed proposals dealing with the following general topics around public goods:

  • Origins of public goods and the public
  • Expanding orthodox understandings of public goods
  • Implications of expanding conceptualizations of the public goods as local, global, translocal
  • The transformation of the Public Sphere / Rethinking the public sphere in the 21st century
  • Globalization & multiplicity of the public
  • Global public goods
  • Private vs Public provision of “public” goods
  • Knowledge & science as global public goods
  • Environmental public goods
  • International comparative understandings of the public and what is a public good
  • Trust and the erosion of public goods

More specifically, authors have considered, among others, the following questions

  • How might the concepts of ‘public goods’ and ‘the public good’ play out, either in relation
    to the university or the educational processes of higher education? Do they play out
    differently across the disciplines?
  • Which non-economic goods might come into play as far as higher education is concerned?
  • Are there significant distinctions to be observed between ‘public good’ and ‘social good’ in
    the context of the university?
  • What implications arise for university leadership from debates around public goods or the
    public good?
  • How might tensions be addressed between national and global public goods?
  • Can helpful classifications be developed to help in distinguishing different kinds of public
    goods for the university?
  • What pedagogical implications arise from considerations of public goods and the public
  • In relation to universities and higher education, are there other key concepts to be
    identified that are contiguous with ‘public goods’ and ‘the public good’ (such as ‘public
    sphere’; ‘public realm’; ‘public mission’; ‘public intellectual’)?

The authors of successful proposals have now been notified, and are developing their abstracts into full papers. The symposium will provide them with an opportunity to share the work in progress with the broader academic public, and to enter in a conversation with it.

Paper idea presentations (5 mins each):

The greater/public good and research impact

Rene Brauer, University of Eastern Finland, Finland

Mirek Dymitrow, Lund University, Sweden

Shrinking ‘Public’ Spaces and Inequality in Access to Professional Higher Education in India

Pradeep Choudhury, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India

Formative Higher Education for Public Insurgence

Samantha Deane, Boston College, United States

Chris Higgins, Boston College, United States

Finding the edges of “publicness” for the concept of public goods in higher education

Tessa DeLaquil, Boston College, United States

The role of universities in the creation of communities of inquiry

Jakob Feldt, Roskilde University, Denmark

What publics? Whose good?

Andrew Gibson, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

Søren Bengtsen, Aarhus University, Denmark

Hyperobjects, fractals and ruinous connections: emerging ecologies of public good in post-anthropocentric university landscapes

Kirsten Locke, University of Auckland, New Zealand

EPIC-WE for public goodA new co-operative model for the civil role of higher education institutions in society

Rikke Toft Nørgård, Aarhus University, Denmark

Higher Education for the Public Good as a Public and Private Good or Replacing a Technocratic Understanding of the Public Good with a Philosophical One

John Petrovic, University of Alabama, United States

Re-claiming the ethical university: Moving beyond value

Wesley Shumar, Drexel University, United States

Sarah Robinson, Aarhus University, Denmark

Søren Bengtsen, Aarhus University, Denmark

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