***** 1. Introduction This paper argues the case for educators within higher education to consider themselves as ‘transformative intellectuals,’ who can promote ‘critical literacy’ within their students.1 This is related to the much-touted notion ‘citizenship’ and is set within a revaluation of the Scottish tradition of ‘democratic intellectualism’ which was discussed by George Davie in his book The Democratic Intellect.2 The broad thrust of the arguments developed have been stimulated by the recent critical evaluations of the personal development planning and the notion of graduate attributes in higher education, the ‘Bologna Process’ and the recent writings of Jean Barr in her critical engagement democratic intellectualism with regard to adult education.Davie examined the decline of a type of higher education offered in Scottish universities after the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century which encouraged breadth of study and a commitment to public engagement 84 The Return of the Democratic Intellect through the study of philosophy and broader concern with theoretical and conceptual issues. Even today, the notion of a broad higher education, at least to begin with in the early part of a program of study, is still with is many of Scotland’s four-year degree programs.
However, to return to Davie’s historical account, the argument he advanced was that the democracy of the democratic intellect lay in the way in which the generalism of the Scottish philosophical tradition acted as a barrier to an individualistic notion of learning and in so doing bridged the gap between the expert few and lay majority. In so doing it was argued that this created a ‘sort of intellectual bridge between all classes’ in which the Scottish intelligentsia remained in touch with its popular roots, retaining a strong sense of social responsibility. In this way Davie argued that a ‘common sense’ developed in which the expert knowledge of individuals was enhanced by, and held accountable to, the understanding of the wider public. This was ‘democratic’ in as much as there was a social distribution of intellectual knowledge. This ‘democratic intellect’ therefore runs contrary to the notion of intellectual elites and rule by experts. It is a perspective on intellectuality in terms of the social function of the intellectual. However, this was very much a male experience and one in which there is more than a little mythology surrounding the relationship between the classes.2. The Changing Nature of Academia Academia is said to be in the process of transformation in what can be considered as a shift from what may be crudely put as a ‘knowledge-forits-own-sake’ paradigm to one that stresses knowledge capitalization.5 Within this process universities have sought to exploit academic research in order to secure alternative streams of income within what has become a much more competitive environment.6 This has resulted in, for example, collaborative research between university and industry, with an increased emphasis on using the commercialisation of intellectual property as a means generating revenue.7 Some scholars have argued that this institutional transformation is a positive organizational development for universities and have suggested that the growing convergence between academia and industry can be thought of as a ‘new mode of knowledge.’8 It is argued that this links the university, private enterprise and government together in a mutually beneficial and productive relationship.
However, others are more critical of this emphasis on the commercialisation of knowledge. In their view, ‘academic capitalism’ carries with it negative connotations in terms of an encroaching profit motive into academia.9 This response is based upon what is considered to be a conflict of values and interests; between academic curiosity and objectivity on the one hand, and entrepreneurialism and commercialisation on the other. This is claimed to not only lead to divided loyalties and role conflict but also, at its James Moir starkest, represents an ideological assault on academic freedom and autonomy. Thus the transformation of academia towards a more marketfacing presence represents a major challenge to core academic ideals and professional and intellectual identity.In parallel with this process towards the development of the entrepreneurial university has been as shift in emphasis in undergraduate education. Universities are now charged with producing graduates who are able to meet the challenges of the knowledge economy. For example, in the context of European Union, much of this has been driven by the Bologna Process and the focus on modularisation, accumulation of academic credit, and the possession of graduate attributes.11 This was instituted following the Bologna declaration of 1999 which aims to create a European-wide higher educational area. These developments have intensified following the European Union Lisbon Treaty of 2007 and European Commission Lisbon Agenda for addressing the globalise knowledge economy. Aspects of this agenda are aimed at improving graduate employability and competitiveness.
This new vocationalist emphasis has been conceptualised as part of a neoliberal discourse in which ‘the market’ has come to dictate how we view the ‘outputs’ of higher education. This new rhetoric represents fundamental change in how higher education is legitimated; one in which knowledge content is relegated to that of the possession of attributes that equip graduates to respond to the changing nature of the labour market. Given the impact of the current global economic situation there is an imperative on higher education to ‘deliver’ on employability. However, as with the role of academic, the intellectual nature of higher education has arguably been devalued.
3. A Resurgence of the Democratic Intellect Whilst higher education is in a state of transformation across the world in responding the growth of the knowledge economy, so there has also been a corresponding realization that the process of globalisation requires undergraduates to be exposed to an education that will develop citizenship.
The 2009 synthesis report from the Global University Network for Innovation (GUNI) entitled Higher Education at a time of Transformation:
New Dynamics for Social Responsibility draws attention to the many challenges confronting the sector that stem from those of wider society:
beyond the ‘ivory tower’ or ‘market-oriented university’ towards one that innovatively adds value to the process of social transformation. The report argues that this creation and distribution of socially relevant knowledge is something that needs to be core to the activities of universities, thereby strengthening their social responsibility.86 The Return of the Democratic Intellect As the GUNI report puts so well, this calls for us to rethink the purpose of higher education; a purpose that is one of transformation rather than transmission:
The central educative purpose of HEIs ought to be the explicit facilitation of progressive, reflexive, critical, transformative learning that leads to much improved understanding of the need for, and expression of, responsible paradigms for living and for ‘being’ and ‘becoming,’ both as individuals alone and collectively as communities.’On the face of it, this notion of higher education as educating citizens with a sense of civic awareness may seem to chime with that of the democratic intellect. However, a note of caution needs to be sounded in that it is set within the context of ever increasing costs for those entering higher education and a legitimating rhetoric of ‘employability.’ There is little room here for notion of citizenship and the democratisation of knowledge that involves, not simply the development of expertise, but also the importance of bringing in ‘knowledge from below’ in terms of forging a real connection with lived experience. To do otherwise might risk opening up new spaces for critical debate and alternative ideas and practices. As Lyotard put it in The Postmodern Condition we are left with an ‘exteriorisation of knowledge with respect to the ‘knower,’ at whatever point he or she may occupy in the knowledge process.’14 And so as with academic in their research, what more than not transpires is an exclusion rather than inclusion of others in intellectual work.This can occur even in areas such as my own discipline of sociology, where despite a call for a public sociology, the rhetoric does not match up with the actual practice of the discipline. For example, it has been argued that it has become a ‘hyper-professionalized’ endeavour in which highly abstract, explanatory theories are valued at the expense of making the social world less descriptively comprehensible from that of everyday experience.16 The latter is the opposite of the ‘sociological imagination.’4. Overcoming the Hurdles It is at this point I wish to draw upon a Wittgensteinian-inspired analysis of the notion of education as involving practicing.18 They point out that the notion of education as an initiation into practices can, on the face of it, appear to be somewhat conservative in that it emphasizes the reproductive functions of teaching and learning. However, this need not be the case and they note that different ways of learning or enacting are very much bound up with a sense of self and identity. It is learning through practicing which can James Moir lead to a transformation of self through interactions and relations with others in the learning process. Practices can therefore transform the self by encouraging certain interpretations but also may lead to subversions that distance the person from these. It is in Aristotelian terms the notion of ‘praxis;’ how one lives as a citizen and human being and is the personal, social and political embodiment of practice.
This more critical and reflective process of narrativization in relation to the learning process can be found in the recent attempts to encourage personalization as an aspect of the development of graduate attributes (GAs).
The major pedagogical implication of such an approach is the adoption of measures designed to encourage students to be self-learning, self-actualising and self-initiating. There is the view that a homogeneous offering is not sufficient in meeting students’ needs. Yet, despite this emphasis on meeting students’ needs, a major driver behind the move towards personalization is the recognition that mass higher education has also been accompanied by a concern regarding retention and motivation. It is perhaps little wonder that this is the case when knowledge is promoted in an ‘exteriorised’ fashion;
something to be gained for an instrumental benefit rather than to as connecting with lived experience.
One thing is certain: those who are actively engaged in the educational process both inside and outside the classroom are more likely to be successful than their disengaged peers.19 Influential writers such as Barnett suggest that the ‘will to learn’ is a key aspect of the student experience that needs to be encouraged and nurtured.20 According to this view it is not the subject of study or the acquisition of skills that educators need to focus on but rather personal aspects such as authenticity, dispositions, inspiration, passion and spirit. As he puts it:
The fundamental educational problem of a changing world is neither one of knowledge nor of skills but is one of being. To put it more formally, the educational challenge of a world of uncertainty is ontological in nature.Much of Barnett’s focus is therefore directed towards how such qualities or attributes can be developed and in doing so this connects with related concepts such as personal development planning (PDP) and graduate attributes (GAs). Simon Barrie’s work has had a significant impact on thinking about the nature of generic GAs in higher education.22 For, example, in developing a conceptual framework for the development of GAs, Barrie notes a series of factors including, under the heading of participation that ‘generic attributes are learnt by the way students participate and engage with all the experiences of university life.’88 The Return of the Democratic Intellect The personalization of learning has been applied differently across and within subjects but has effectively become a ‘de rigueur’ aspect of the higher education system.24 However, the increasing bureaucratisation of the learning process as a codified product is paradoxical when set aside the ways in which students are encouraged to engage with their curricula in a constructivist manner. Thus, as some have suggested, this has enabled a managerial model of learning to be surreptitiously substituted for the dialogic and critical model which characterizes the ideal of learning in higher education.To some this process is arguably more about the legitimation of PDP and GAs as a means of showing their operation within an audit-driven and accountable culture. This view has been most strongly put by Evans in Killing Thinking: Death of the Universities, who writes that there has been:
[…] a transformation of teaching in universities into the painting-by-numbers exercise of a hand-out culture […in which] rich resources are increasingly marginalized by cultures of assessment and regulation […] Increasingly, students are being asked to pay for the costs of the regulation of HE rather than education itself.But before going down the polemical path too far, if the case for a focus on employability relies on the notion of an adaptation to a global knowledge economy then it can also be argued that an equal case can be made for defending the inclusion of the values that encourage a more global perspective in the curriculum. This is in accord with the notion of the democratic intellect.