Higher education ruthlessly exploited amid Covid-19 – leading macroeconomic influencers
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Higher education ruthlessly exploited amid Covid-19 – leading macroeconomic influencers

22 Jul 2021

Covid-19 has amplified certain dynamics such as managerialism and economisation of universities.

Higher education ruthlessly exploited amid Covid-19 – leading macroeconomic influencers
Credit: PoohFotoz/Shutterstock.com.

Some economists believe that the pandemic has led to a lot of uncertainty, right from the bottom to the top, and that the pandemic driven neo-liberalisation of universities will be a disaster.

Prof Steve Keen

Prof Steve Keen, an economist and associate professor of economics and finance at the University of Western Sydney, retweeted a discussion between Renegade’s host Ross Ashcroft and Peter Fleming, the author of Dark Academia: How Universities Die’, to discuss the future of higher education amid the Covid-19 crisis.

Experts agree that Covid-19 has had a massive effect on education globally, including schools and academia. However, something that many have missed during the virus crisis is that the higher education crisis is being ruthlessly exploited in the UK and elsewhere. Consequently, consultants and management teams think they can now make huge money by cementing a fully neo-liberal educational regime.

Fleming states that there have been nasty developments of late about how students and faculty are being treated by universities in the UK. According to him, the pandemic has unearthed the cracks and fissures that have always existed in universities, and particularly the public ones.

Dr Gema Zamarro

Dr Gema Zamarro, an education and labour economist and a professor at the department of education reform at the University of Arkansas, retweeted an article on the pandemic childcare crisis having hit working parents and especially mothers in ways that do not show up in the unemployment data. For instance, parents still holding onto their jobs are having to meet new childcare demands that are affecting their careers, such as cutting down on their hours, foregoing promotions, declining new projects or even pursuing new jobs.

Economists are calling this the intensive margin, where how much people work is measured as against how many people are employed in the labour force, which is difficult to quantify. However, growing evidence of slowing careers and reduced working hours among working parents during and after the pandemic, is expected to have short-term consequences on their contributions today but long-term consequences on their careers, as US employers tend to have a policy to penalise their employees if they did not work to full capacity.

Experts also believe that childcare disruptions could involve long-term career costs, and the ones likely to bear them will be mothers. A Morning Consult survey for The New York Times revealed that one-third of the 468 mothers working for pay had worked fewer hours during the Covid-19 pandemic because of childcare issues, and one-fifth switched to part-time jobs.

Dean Baker

Dean Baker, macroeconomist and co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) in Washington, D.C., retweeted an article on recently updated data on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANFs) performance during the pandemic recession suggesting that it is on track to fail worse this time. According to economists, past research found the US welfare reform to largely fail in responding to the 2008 Great Recession.

New data further suggested that fewer families received TANF cash assistance in 2020 than in 2019. According to CEPR analysis, the total number of families in the US receiving income assistance from TANF declined by 3.5% in 2020.

As earlier analyses have documented working class mothers to have been particularly hard-hit by the Covid-19 recession, experts believe a well-functioning programme would have supported working class and low-income parents during the crisis by providing them with more income assistance for their families and children. TANF, as a result, is a failed experiment.