Criticising Humanities Today:-Framing Debates on the Value of Humanities in EU Higher Education Policy with a Special Focus on the Bologna Process

Dissertation, Uppsala University (2014)
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The main research question that this paper aims to answer is: ‘In what does today’s attack on humanities consist and how can humanities be defended?’ In order to answer this research question, one needs first to describe how the humanities have argued for their usefulness before the Bologna Process; second, provide reasons for the claim that the Bologna Process would be a new type of attack; and third, analyse the new defences for the humanities, so as to discuss whether these are suitable. The main finding of this study was to show that, before deciding what type of education society needs, we need to understand who we are educating through our universities. Taking a stance on “who should we educate?” is prior to being able to judge educational policies. This decision requires a previous justification that requires arguments taken from the field of social justice: Who needs to be educated and who has the right to be educated? Furthermore, we have seen that all answers we have examined to the question underlying educational policies, i.e. ‘who is being educated?’, were linked at some level with the citizenship issue. By defining who is a full citizen, an answer to the question who had the right to a humanistic education was implicitly answered. Nussbaum’s project to universalise the definition of democratic citizenship would ensure a basis for providing humanistic education for all. Such a line of arguing would provide humanities to the well-regarded status they had starting from the Renaissance times, but this time not as a device for exclusion, but inclusion for all. We have tried to show that, by defending the humanities, one defends the idea of a plurality of educational purposes, the right to build one’s life based on an education that is not submitted to the political goals of the day, ultimately the right to have a dissenting voice and a different perspective on life. By defending humanities, one defends the true ‘usefulness’ of education, namely its potential for constructing democratic citizenship for all.

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Lavinia Marin
Delft University of Technology


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