The Clash of Humanism and Neoliberalism: A Research on Practices and Ideologies in Croatian Universities


The prevailing economic ideologies that entered the European higher education in the last few decades disrupted the long tradition of so-called 'humanistic' ideals and values. This resulted in changing shifts from 'learning per-se' to 'learning for the labor market', which challenged everyone involved in education at the universities. While many universities welcomed the neoliberal paradigm in teaching and learning, a growing number of literature started questioning whether the superiority of this paradigm led to irreversible reduction of humanistic values such as freedom, autonomy, emancipation, etc. In an attempt to explore the relationship between humanistic and neoliberal approaches to the university and to understand the attitudes of the main actors of higher education regarding the goals and mission of a modern university, a study among students was conducted in 2018. This paper presents the results of this study which involved 735 students from 12 universities from Zagreb (Croatia), from different fields of study. The results show that more than 90% of students agreed that developing a human being must be university’s primary goal. However, when ranking the university missions, the students from technical fields put “preparing a person for the labor market” as the most important mission, while students from social fields gave priority to “developing a free and independent human”. Both groups favored gaining specific knowledges and skills over general ones. Both groups were uncertain about the role of university in Europe’s growth, which is an interesting point of discussion, considering the high priority Europe gives to higher education.

Author Information
Ruzica Jurcevic, University of Zagreb, Croatia

Paper Information
Conference: CHER-HongKong2019
Stream: Globalisation

This paper is part of the CHER-HongKong2019 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon