Notes on: Lambert, C., Parker, A. and Neary, M.  (2007) 'Entrepreneurialism and critical pedagogy: reinventing the higher education curriculum'.  Teaching in Higher Education, 12 (4): 525 - 37.  Doi: 10.1080/13562510701415672.

Dave Harris

Widespread change in UKHE has included the development of managerialism, entrepreneurialism, quality control, links between universities and industry, and the construction of students as consumers in a global marketplace.  This is commodification, and entrepreneurialism has played a major part in it.  Pedagogic practices, however might consider a more critical relationships between entrepreneurialism and education, as in the Reinvention Centre for Undergraduate Research.

The commercialisation of education is global, driven through international institutions, like the World Trade Organisation.  Links with industry and the development of an entrepreneurial spirit have been important, claims for the importance of the knowledge economy or the learning society have also been prominent, linked to an international agenda.  This is an instrumental education focusing on human resources rather than personal achievement, or the promotion of education as a social good.  It has been called the '"Tesco" model of education'[Foster, 2002] (526).  As a result, the structures of HE have also changed in the adoption of managerial strategies, entrepreneurial activity, and systems of accountability.

The trend has been developed through a series of reports and policy initiatives, including Dearing, the more recent White Paper on the future of higher education, and the Lambert Review, all developing the knowledge based economy perspective.  A university organized around this is supposed to be the way to develop to overcome funding crisis and also to become more competitive globally.  This has resulted in 'niche marketing strategies' (527) and also 'private, corporate and virtual universities'.  These policies have led to a hierarchical divide among HEIs themselves, where research has become more prestigious and more financially viable, with consequences for academics who are also now seen as commodities.

Critical responses have included discussions of commercialisation and social justice, the impact of market demand, the erosion of the professional identity and the student identity [refs page 527].  There is less research looking at the impact on classroom activity.  However, one way in which commercialisation affects teaching and learning is through enterprise education.  There has been a long history of policies and practices to develop entrepreneurialism.

One problem is that enterprise activity is itself problematic.  Entrepreneurship does not necessarily support narrow profit led activity.  Even so, attributes are mostly seen as business skills, and these have captured the more creative and social dimensions.  The issue becomes one of getting involved without compromising, and this in turn means there is a need for 'an appropriate model of teaching and learning' (528).

The Centre began with the aim of reinventing teaching relations, bringing students more closely into research cultures.  Strategies have included funds to academics and others to develop research based learning and teaching, and graduates to carry out research.  Pedagogic space itself has been reinvented, and relations established with other academic institutions and community groups.  Important intellectual traditions have included an American one (Scholarship of Teaching and Learning), and work on the role of student as researcher.  Boyer has been important.  There has also been an input from radical pedagogy and critical pedagogy, including Freire.  These help see that teaching and learning are socially and intellectually useful activities, and show the need to combine action and reflection.  Students and teachers have to work creatively, in an open way, including using collaborative methods of thinking and research.  As Freire  indicates, there is a social and political critique 'embedded within pedagogy', and this has led to the development of 'academic activism', joining the academy to 'networks of social protest' (529). At the same time, critical pedagogy itself needs to be interrogated, and it is ambitious to assume that this will itself lead to challenge to neoliberal trends.  Some case studies of student research activity are presented.

In the first example, students were encouraged to write and publish 'a book of sociological fiction and photographic images' (530) [called Representations].  It showcases students work and also discusses the intellectual processes involved.  The idea was proposed by two sociologists working with narrative and visual sociology, and students took up the idea.  Challenges that emerged included facing different pedagogic demands, such as writing stories of photographs rather than traditional essays.  This made students initially uncomfortable, although they were 'surprised' by the quality of the work they had produced.  Accounts were collected and produced in the book.

The second project was launched on gender transformations, involving student unions and staff in a collective.  The idea was to research student activism and campaign, through interviews, group conversations, and discussion.  Subsequent images and posters and reflexive journal entries were produced, and these were distributed via e-mail.  Collaborative analysis and writing up produced 'a shared story; one that is necessarily characterised by multiple voices and creative tensions' (531).  The notion of praxis was particularly explored.  Research findings have been presented him publications and conference papers and they have been critically discussed.  Again students were forced to reflect.  Of course, power differences 'can neither be ignored nor erased'(532), but learning took place 'based on genuine enquiry' rather than impose learning outcomes, and involve dialogue between staff and students.  Links were also made between the university and campaigners.

The third case study was a documentary film [called Universities plc?], focused on commodification, representing the global factors at work on HE, and possible alternative ways of living or working and thinking.  Commentators of various kinds were interviewed.  Links were made with a sociology module on crime and deviance, where students had learned from discussions with young offenders.  A cooperative was funded to communicate with students in other universities through conferences and workshops, and the film has been widely shown.  The production of the film and its presentation are just as significant as the product, and show undergraduate students' potential.  A second critical documentary is also underway, again reflecting on the pedagogic process collaboratively.  Reflection will address unequal power relations and this will be featured in the film.

Entrepreneurial activity is central to neo liberalism, but entrepreneurial values can be directed at more educationally valuable contexts.  This shows possibilities outside the neoliberal version.  In the Centre, the focus was on 'intellectual and critical inquiry'(533), and on reinvention.  The case study shows some of the possibilities, and the Centre has been important in encouraging similar developments.  Pedagogic practice itself might involve 'the more critical exploration of the relationship between entrepreneurialism and education'(534).

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