G.A.T.S. and Universities: implications for research.

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Abstract

The likely impact of applying the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) to higher education are examined. GATS aims to "open up" services to competition: no preference can be shown to national or government providers.
The consequences for teaching are likely to be that private companies, with degree-awarding powers, would be eligible for the same subsidies as public providers. Appealing to the inadequate recently-introduced "benchmark" statements as proof of quality, they would provide a "bare bones" service at lower cost. Public subsidies would go: education being reduced that minimum which could be packaged in terms of verifiable "learning outcomes". The loss of "higher" aspirations, such education of critically-minded citizens of a democratic and civilised society would impoverish the university's research culture which demands honesty and openness to public scrutiny.
Most university research is substantially supported by public subsidy. Under GATS discipline, commercial providers of research services could be entitled to similar public subsidies. Publicly funded fundamental research would fade, leaving university research totally dependent for funds upon the good will of industry and commerce. Present problems, such as the suppression of unwelcome results and the use of questionable results to manipulate public opinion, would considerably increase. The public would lose a prime source of trustworthy knowledge, needed in political discourse, legal disputation, consumer protection and in many other contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-100
Number of pages16
JournalScience and Engineering Ethics
Volume9
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2003

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