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The (Political) Idea of a University: Political Science and neoliberalism in English Higher Education


This article is concerned primarily with the relationship between academic ideas and the ‘real world’ of politics. Disciplinary histories often assume a one-way influence of ideas, that of the academy into political practice. This article reverses that relationship and explores the way in which real-world ideas about politics have the potential to influence the way in which the academy develops, and the kind of responses it might offer. The primary focus is upon England and the marketisation of higher education; it asks are we burning all our books? This article also raises broader questions about the relationship between academia and that which it observes, with specific reference to political science.

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This article emerged from a panel at the ECPR conference at Reykjavik (2011) and I would like to thank the participants and organisers at that event. I’d also like to thank Bob Reinalda and Simon Gerrard for their support, encouragement and critical insights and the anonymous reviewers for their comments on an earlier version of this piece.

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savigny, h. The (Political) Idea of a University: Political Science and neoliberalism in English Higher Education. Eur Polit Sci 12, 432–439 (2013).

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  • higher education reform
  • funding
  • politicisation
  • neoliberalism