Global Citizenship and the Neo-Liberal University
The effects of climate change, decreasing resources and rising commodity prices are being experienced in many countries now. Globalisation is said to partially account for these phenomena, as well as contributing to erosion of national citizenship values. Perhaps in response to this, the notion of global citizenship has become more prevalent, particularly in educational contexts. The global citizen is variously defined, from a person who is involved in “international do-goodery” (Wringe, 1999) to one of Shultz’s (2007) three approaches to global citizenship: neo-liberal entrepreneurship. However, a common theme in many definitions characterises the global citizen as being aware of and taking action to alleviate global poverty and injustice.
Many universities now offer courses in Global Citizenship (GC), and the term has some currency as a Graduate Attribute. Arguably, universities have important roles in developing GC, given their mission to educate future citizens. Yet the term remains poorly defined. The prospect of global citizenship membership is also both compelling and problematic: while the planet would undoubtedly benefit from a more benevolent stewardship that GC seems to promise, it is difficult to imagine how such citizenship values might be developed on a scale grand enough to make a difference. The university’s role in promulgating GC is also problematic. What values should are required, and how culturally representative might these need to be, if at all? Of greater concern is the possibility that the term itself is no more than an exercise in window-dressing, belying the neo-liberal agendas in many global south universities. Universities may graduate global citizens who are, ‘agents of social good’ (Barrie, 2004), but it appears that greater political will is needed to implement authentic change. This paper discusses the viability of ‘global citizenship’ in university education, and argues that it has an important role in the changing global environment.
Keywords: Global Citizenship, Higher Education, Globalisation
Suzanne Marion Fegan
Associate Lecturer, Curriculum, Teaching and Learning Centre, La Trobe University