Browne’s Capgas Delusion: The Destruction of the Public University

Christopher Holligan, Kuang-Hsu Chiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The recent publication of the UK government‘s Browne Review 2010 on university and student funding signifies a massive step towards embedding capitalist free-market consumerist values and practices into UK higher education. This paper critically examines that paradigm shift away from public sector provision from the perspective of French Theory, of which the notions of reverie and hyper-reality developed by Bachelard and Baudrillard are respectively utilised. It is argued that student consumerism characterised by end products (credentials), edutainment coupled with duplicitous appearance signifies a deeply compromised knowledge and moral circumstance. It entrenches existing academic trajectories towards market competition and audit culture. Browne‘s higher education landscape will be characterised by the post-modern 'simulacra university‘, surreal while paradoxically continuing a physical presence.

The enforced adoption of a neo-liberal culture requires the University and its knowledge workers to lose the poetic space of reverie and critique. Academics will become a subjugated modern peasantry working in a globalised hyper-real of uniformity and conformity. This means institutions and academics will be alienated from an organic, intellectually autonomous and inter-subjective space for understanding, learning and serendipity. Instead they are being force marched into a state of no authentically rooted meaning or internal philosophical reference apart from those of the destructive cash-nexus of a de-regulated capitalist market. The consequences and implications of this arid development and its underlying philosophy in neo-liberalism for the life of the mind and
society are critically exposed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-259
JournalJournal for Critical Education Policy Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2011


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