Ideology in Practice : The Construction of British Higher Education in the Service of the State 1979-1990

Halliday, Josephine. 2013. Ideology in Practice : The Construction of British Higher Education in the Service of the State 1979-1990. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Since 1979, British higher education has moved away from a model informed by traditional liberal values. Government now expects universities to serve the instrumental needs of the state. This thesis asks how and why this change was possible, arguing that this was not an inevitable, “natural” response to a modern society’s needs but, rather, a central aspect of the neoliberal revolution. It therefore has to be understood ideologically. Given that the Thatcher Governments (1979-1990) exemplify an overtly ideological approach, what happened in political terms to higher education in that period serves as a case study through which to explore two interrelated meanings of ideology: first, ideology as a set of ideas; and, second, as a medium for framing, universalising and transmitting those ideas through selective and partial presentations of reality. I take the work of Marx and certain Marxists as a starting point in understanding ideology and through which to explore how higher education could be requisitioned as an “ideological state apparatus”. Speeches and writings of the New Right are considered and an account given of how the Thatcher Governments’ higher education policies were enacted, not only in terms of what policy papers and legislation actually stated but - crucially - how they were argued through Parliament. Some of these statements and policies appeared to be contradictory: however, the Thatcher Governments were able to capitalise on this. In conjunction with using the contradictions inherent in the traditional liberal view of higher education, it was possible to recruit ideological agents and “manufacture consent” so that a new ideological relationship between higher education and the state was constructed. I conclude that higher education became from this period onwards an explicitly ideological arm of the state, and that this analysis sheds light both on higher education’s current status and on how ideology works.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)


ideology, higher education, relationship of higher education to the state, politics, government, Marxism, Thatcherism, neoliberalism

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Date Deposited:

04 Mar 2014 13:13

Last Modified:

12 Sep 2022 11:08


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