How We Got Here: UK Higher Education under Neoliberalism


  • Hugo Radice School of Politics and International Studies University of Leeds


higher education, academia, neo-liberalism, personal experiences, research literature, recent history, management, resistance, performance, collegiality and critical engagement, equality, wealth, power


This paper looks at how higher education (HE) in the UK has been transformed since the advent of neo-liberalism in the 1970s. It is based on my personal experiences over four decades, as well as the research literature, and argues that the changes in HE have been the direct result of policy changes shaped by neo-liberal thinking. After a brief outline of the recent history of HE, I look in detail at how the management systems have changed, both in individual institutions, and in the management of the HE system as a whole, through the application of the ‘new public management’ approach. Resistance to these changes has been problematic, given a wider economic culture increasingly centred on individual performance, not collective purposes. Although it might be possible to recreate an imagined ideal of collegiality and critical engagement, a truly alternative future for HE needs to begin from rethinking the education system as a whole, basing it around the promotion of substantive equality of wealth and power throughout society.


How to Cite

Radice, H. (2015). How We Got Here: UK Higher Education under Neoliberalism. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 12(2), 407–418. Retrieved from