Constructions of Knowledge, Tertiary Education and Research Policy in Aotearoa/New Zealand

Sharon Harvey
Vol 21, Number 1, p.63
This paper engages with Michael Peters' Macmillan Brown lectures through an investigation of the genealogy of the collocation/statement knowledge society in New Zealand science and tertiary education policy texts. The intention is to show that the use of the collocation/ statement knowledge society in post 1999 New Zealand adheres most strongly to its associations with national wealth enhancement. This sets up a problem for tertiary education research, in particular. Previously considered to be vital for the development of disciplinary knowledge and extending the sum of human wisdom, academic research emerges, along with the national science system, as a primary tool for lifting New Zealand's economic performance and reinstating the country into the top half of the OECD. Being identified as the country's economic saviour has its advantages as, for example, research budgets are increased. The risks, however, have yet to be fully understood. An emphasis, even insistence, at government level on producing for-profit knowledge and new technological gadgets sets up path dependencies for research which bypass critical, reflective research mainly undertaken in the humanities and social sciences. It is quite possible that vigorous social democracies and even capitalism itself require such knowledge to pluralise available discursive formations, providing alternatives, sometimes even new ways of thinking. The paper suggests that while we continue to live in a world of suffering, higher education and research conducted in the sector have a cultural and ethical mission to alleviate injustice and maintain the possibility of change.