Simon Marginson1
  • 1 Institute of Education, University of London, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL, United Kingdom

The Public Good Created by Higher Education Institutions in Russia

2017. No. 3. P. 9–36 [issue contents]
Simon Marginson - Professor of Higher Education, UCL Institute of Education, University College London, UK. Address: UCL Institute of Education, University College London, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL, United Kingdom. E-mail: s.marginson@ucl.ac.uk

The public/private distinction is central to higher education but there is no consensus on the meaning of ‘public’. Two different meanings are in use. Economic theory distinguishes non market goods (public) that cannot be produced for profit, from market-based activity (private). This provides a basis for identifying the minimum necessary public expenditure, but does not effectively encompass collective goods. In political theory ‘public’ is often understood as state ownership and/ or control. This is more inclusive than the  economic definition, and recognizes the scope for norms and policies, but lacks clear boundaries. The first part of the article synthesizes these two approaches, developing an analytical framework with four quadrants (civil society, social democracy, state quasi-market,  commercial market) that can be used to categorise activities in higher education and research. The second part summarises the findings of 30 semi-structured interviews in the Russian government and two universities, conducted in 2013, concerning perceptions of public goods produced in Russian higher education. While most interviewees saw research as a global public good, they were divided in relation to teaching and learning. Some understood the education function as a public good in both the economic and political  sense and wanted the government to take greater responsibility for improvement in higher education. Others saw higher education as a private good in the economic sense, and while they acknowledged the need for government because of market failure, wanted  public intervention and regulation to be reduced. This division in thought about public/private paralleled the larger division between Soviet and neoliberal thinking in the Russian polity, and also the divided character of higher education, which is evenly split between free  government administered places and a fee-paying student market.
Citation: Marginson S. (2017) Obshchestvennye blaga, proizvodimye v vysshikh uchebnykh zavedeniyakh Rossii (per. s angl. E. Shadrinoy, nauch. red. A. Yu. Smolentseva) [The Public Good Created by Higher Education Institutions in Russia]. Voprosy obrazovaniya / Educational Studies Moscow, no3, pp. 9-36.