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06 MARCH 2011

PhD pedagogy and the changing knowledge landscapes of universities

"At the level of form and content of the knowledge produced in postgraduates' work, the supervisor, whose intellectual roots are frequently based in a singular domain characterised by horizontal knowledge structures, must acquire principles that enable them to understand the students' research problems in terms of a vertical or hierarchical knowledge structure. For example, a student may wish to contribute to insights in the domain of social aspects of urban design. The supervisor, who may be a sociologist, must find a means of integrating insights from sociology with its own nuanced conceptual language, with discourses from design associated with user centred design principles, at a level that is sufficient to guide the student through the processes of integration and recontextualisation. Thus vertical knowledge structures need to be employed by both supervisor and student to address the weakening classifications between sociology and design. Further, however, the hidden aspect of pedagogy here is that the supervisor must have a sufficient understanding at a generic level of what is required for the development of knowledge through integration to provide the student with the tools to accomplish this with respect to their own specific topic area. This is an area that receives very little attention in any of the discourses or literature around what is required of supervisors, and is a key area for further research on postgraduate pedagogy."

(Barbara Adkins, 2009, QUT ePrints)

Adkins, Barbara A. (2009) PhD pedagogy and the changing knowledge landscapes of universities. Higher Education Research and Development Journal, 28(2), pp. 165–177.

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
29 DECEMBER 2008

Universities marginalised in the knowledge economy?

"There was widespread consensus that universities appear to be in an end game with respect to the arts and humanities. For a long time, universities had to accept that there would be economic imbalances between various schools, and that one should expect the sciences and engineering to be the money drivers for the whole.

But with the advent of the corporate model, universities have been brought in line with big manufacturers who decades ago began requiring that all their divisions, big and small, turn a profit or be liquidated. That survival of the fittest approach is bad news for the arts and humanities, given that they're not part of a military industrial complex that drives "grants" in the sciences.

Moreover, turning knowledge into marketable product that a university can profit from (that is, exploit) distorts freedom of enquiry, given that this is de facto the freedom to enquire into things that won't or can't turn a profit, if, in fact, these are things that can even be well understood. In other words, one should be concerned about what cannot happen in an institution that commodifies knowledge and sees the function of the university mainly in consumer terms.

Really, the corporate approach is quite inefficient insofar as it fails to properly operationalize all aspects of a university and alternatives like open sourced education might work better. When areas like religion, classics, English, the foreign languages, painting, performance, philosophy, history, and art history are second–rated and marginalised, it means that disciplinary resources aren't being well utilised within a general knowledge economy (if one is required to think in those terms). In fact, the typical option of sacking or cutting these areas (note the recent demise of German departments in the UK) speaks not to their weakness but to the poverty of a university model that is overly restrictive – governed by a dog–eat–dog corporate culture that is blinkered."

(Herman Rapaport, 26 October 2005)

[Sociologist Basil Bernstein describes this phenomenon in terms of the regionalisation of knowledge.]

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
21 SEPTEMBER 2005

Singulars & Regions: Identity and Discourse

"Singulars are knowledge structures whose creators have appropriated a space to give themselves a unique name, a specialised discrete discourse with its own intellectual field of texts, practices, rules of entry, examinations, licenses to practice, distribution of rewards and punishments (physics, chemistry, history, economics, psychology, etc.). Singulars are, on the whole, narcissistic, orientated to their own development, protected by strong boundaries and hierarchies.

Regions are constructed by recontextualising singulars into larger units which operate both in the intellectual field of disciplines and in the field of external practice. Regions are the interface between disciplines (singulars) and the technologies they make possible. Thus engineering, medicine, architecture are regions. Contemporary regions would be cognitive science, management, business studies, communications and media. Regionalisation in higher education has proceeded at a rapid pace in the new universities, as any glance at their brochures will testify. Which disciplines enter a region depends upon the recontextualising principle and its social base. Thus the singulars entering medicine have expanded to include the sociology of medicine. Regionalisation as a discursive procedure threatens pedagogic cultures dominated by singulars and raises issues of legitimacy for such cultures, e.g. journalism, dance, sport, tourism, as university studies. However, changes in the reproduction of singulars from course base to modular form facilitate regionalisation. Regionalisation necessarily weakens both the autonomous discursive base and the political base of singulars and so facilitates changes in organisational structures of institutions towards greater central administrative control. The regions have, perhaps, autonomy over their contents in order to be more responsive to, more dependent upon, the market their output is serving. Increasing regionalisation of knowledge is then a good indicator of its technologising, of centralising of administrative control and of pedagogic contents recontextualised according to external regulation. Increasing regionalisation necessarily is a weakening of the strength of the classification of discourses and their entailed narcissistic identities and so a change of orientation of identity towards greater external dependency: a change from introjected to projected identities."
(Basil Bernstein 2000, p.52)

Bernstein, Basil. (2000). Pedagogy Symbolic Control and Identity Theory Research Critique. Oxford, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

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