RAE factory or glorified job shop? 3

November 2, 2006

There should not be any surprise that academia has sold out or that the soul of academia has been sacrificed on the altar of employability. This is because the globalisation of higher education is one of the 12 official commercial sectors controlled by the General Agreement on Trade in Services (Gats).

The World Trade Organisation and universities worldwide have completed several rounds of negotiations. The impact of these negotiations has been to weaken the universities' role as an independent social force and to reduce higher education to a commodity.

While there have been calls to halt all further expansion of Gats, this is likely to happen only if grassroots academics wake up, recognise what is happening and start challenging this shift in emphasis.

I am aware of the pernicious impact of Gats only because of Rachel Thibeault's impassioned account of the impact of globalisation on higher education at this year's World Federation of Occupational Therapists conference in Sydney. My ignorance is evidence that some academics are developing a narrow view of the world. This is the world we will be reflecting to our students in our teaching.

Thibeault's analysis provides all academics with a challenge - "...we have now reached a critical point in history where ethical competence and global identity cannot be seen as mere frills and our work must be imbued with global vision, even in the face of controversy".

Katrina Bannigan
Reader in occupational therapy
Faculty of health and life sciences
York St John University

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