Dichotomy between preached and practiced equity in the academia

Jae Hyung PARK

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


Higher Education (HE) is perhaps the fastest growing sub-field of education only on par with educational technology. HE scholarship is prominent within Comparative and International Education because the internalization of capacities and resources is one of its main research areas. In this presentation, I examine equity as a buzzword, discourse, and an alibi of neoliberal HE management and administration. The financial definition of equity, that is, assets minus liabilities, has seldom been used in education. Instead, education has adopted an epistemology of equity from the field of economics with cognates such as access, achievement, fairness and opportunity. Thus, equity in education advocates equal chances, regardless of identity in all basics such as goods, income, and services. The main difference between equity and the old liberal discourse of equality is a priority provision for the least advantaged members of society (“Priority Rule” for Rawls). It is not by chance that for some economists like Kolm (1972), equity meant a state of “no-envy”. The discourse of equity in academia has emerged from the ashes of classic liberalism’s twofold fantasy: total equality and laissez-faire. However, the rampant neoliberal discourse in campuses today, in my view, is at odds with equity. The ongoing neoliberalism is not but a heresy of classic liberalism. Under its discursive umbrella, HE managers instill competition instead of equality, and justify heavy managerial interventionism instead of laissez-faire. Amidst a purported hegemony of neoliberal epistemology, contemporary universities (and our colleagues next door) seem to preach equity in classrooms while their administrative and managerial practice has largely forgotten it. The main victim of this hegemony of neoliberal epistemology is academic freedom, but it is no longer eroded with transgressions against speech/intellectual freedom. Instead, it is unflinchingly reified with administrative processes, funding cuts, contract renewal threats, and pressure on academic publication performance.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017
EventComparative Education Society of Hong Kong Annual Conference 2017 - The Education University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Duration: 24 Mar 201725 Mar 2017


ConferenceComparative Education Society of Hong Kong Annual Conference 2017
Abbreviated titleCESHK 2017
Country/TerritoryHong Kong


Park, J. (2017, March). Dichotomy between preached and practiced equity in the academia. Paper presented at the Comparative Education Society of Hong Kong Spring Annual Conference 2017 (CESHK 2017), The Education University of Hong Kong, China.


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