Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Similarities and differences between notions of 'public' in the Sinic and liberal Anglo-American traditions, and the implications for higher education
Author: Yang, Lili
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2020
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Full text unavailable from EThOS. Restricted access.
Access from Institution:
This thesis conceptually explores, compares, and searches for potential complementarities, hybridisations, and synergies of ideas concerning the public (good) of higher education in the Sinic and liberal Anglo-American traditions. A common trope, particularly in the liberal Anglo-American tradition, is the notion that higher education produces public goods. However, there is a lack of clarity about what this means; and the dominant economic or political explanations of higher education’s public goods often fail outside Anglo-American societies, especially in China where society follows a tradition of having a comprehensive state. Such a problem not only limits the understanding of the public (good) of higher education, but results in difficulties in cross-cultural understanding and cooperation in higher education. In order to establish a broader understanding of the public (good) of higher education, the thesis employs a two-step trans-positional comparative methodology, built on Amartya Sen’s trans-positional analysis. Following the account of the methodology, the study starts with an exploration of broad cultural and philosophical ideas underlying the public (good) of higher education in the two traditions. The exploration further reveals the social imaginaries of the two traditions, referring to the understandings of four primary spheres of social action – the spheres of individual, society, the state, and the world – and the relationship between the four spheres. It then compares the social imaginaries between the two traditions and examines how higher education interacts with the four spheres of social action. Five key themes of the public (good) of higher education are identified in this process, demonstrating the intersection between higher education and the individual, society, the state, and the world. The five key themes are: individual student development in higher education, equity in higher education, academic freedom and university autonomy in higher education, the resources and outcomes of higher education, and cross-border higher education activities and higher education’s global outcomes. Each of the theme is captured by a pair of terms consisting of a Chinese term and an English/Western term: xiushen (self-cultivation) and Bildung, gongping (equity) and equity, zhi (the free will) and liberty, gong/public and si/private, and tianxia weigong (all under heaven belongs to/is for all) and global public/common goods. Bildung is a German term widely used in English-language education. The conceptual investigation of the public (good) of higher education in the two traditions centres around the five themes. The comparison and search for complementarities, hybridisations, and synergies, are also organised around the five themes. The comparison reveals both similarities and differences for each theme. In general, differences often lie in philosophical and cultural undercurrents of ideas, whereas similarities are embodied in more immediate manifestations of these ideas. On the basis of the comparison, the thesis identifies complementarities, hybridisations, and synergies. In turn, this leads to five trans-positional conclusions concerning of the public (good) of higher education. First, the thesis argues that theoretically the optimum situation for individual student development arises when individual agency is harmonised with the external environment. Second, social equity may be maximised when external conditions are harmonised with individual efforts – when social structure and agency are combined, collective conditions and the individual are combined, and the outer and inner self are combined. Third, although there is no universal idea of academic freedom and university autonomy, the two traditions agree that protecting these qualities in higher education (with various connotations embedded in the specific contexts) requires the efforts to build mutual trust, both between higher education and society, and between higher education and the state. Fourth, the comparative analysis suggests the need to be cautious about nationalist ideas underlying the concepts of global public/common goods. Cross-border higher education activities may benefit from thinking through a perspective of tianxia weigong. Fifth, higher education’s outcomes may be better captured by carefully distinguishing among a trans-positional set of terms, including: the collective good, collective goods as common goods, collective goods as governmental-produced/owned public goods, collective goods as normative collective goods, and individualised goods.
Supervisor: Marginson, Simon ; Oancea, Alis Sponsor: Department of Education ; University of Oxford
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Higher education ; Education ; Political philosophy ; Social sciences