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Micro-politics of neoliberal policy formulation in the higher education sector in Bangladesh

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posted on 02.03.2017, 23:34 by Kabir, Md Ariful Haq
This thesis has explored the development of policy in the higher education sector in Bangladesh since the 1990s. It sought to understand the processes that led to the policy formulation based on neoliberal ideas and traces why, how and by whom these policies were developed in the higher education sector in Bangladesh. In order to understand the formation processes the study also reviewed the history of previous policies, and the discussion contextualizes the present policy formation within a discussion of the earlier development of higher education in Bangladesh. The theoretical framework of this research was developed and informed by the concept of policy borrowing. The methodological approach in this thesis was predominantly that of a case study within a broadly qualitative framework where neoliberal higher education policy making of Bangladesh was selected as a case. The case study used two main methods for collecting data: firstly, from the key neoliberal policies since the 1990s and secondly from the key policy actors involved in the development of these neoliberal policies in higher education. The findings of this thesis suggested that the way in which the neoliberal ideas were shaped in the higher education policies in Bangladesh could be defined as a ‘Bangladeshi’ form of neoliberalism. Although the overall features of this ‘Bangladeshi’ form of neoliberal ideas still embraced the idea of ‘Americanisation’ or ‘Westernisation’, these neoliberal ideas were developed in slightly different ways by actors who considered the socio-economic and political context of Bangladesh. The findings also demonstrated that many concepts put forward by policy borrowing models were found exemplified in the Bangladeshi case study. For example, the construction of ‘policy problems’ involved a process of ‘externalisation’ to solve the policy problems in the higher education sector in Bangladesh, which ensured that neoliberal ideas as developed elsewhere were looked at. In particular, the analysis supported the arguments of several scholars in the policy borrowing models that neoliberal globalisation has become the key source of solutions to policy problems, and the spread of these ideas has worked as a catalyst to solve problems in different national spaces. In the policy formation processes, the references to ‘lessons learnt’ or references to the ‘best practices’ from other countries became the policy tools to justify the adoption of neoliberal ideas in the higher education policies at the state level in Bangladesh. By demonstrating these characteristics of the process, this thesis has contributed to knowledge both in ‘comparative policy studies’ and policy borrowing models. This thesis has argued that the ‘micro-politics’ of a context need to be studied to understand the reasons why neoliberal ideas were formulated in the developing countries like Bangladesh. The argument about the importance of studying the ‘micro-politics’ of policy development contributes to knowledge in ‘comparative policy studies’. In addition, this research has argued that the concept of ‘semi-peripheral references’ as externalisation has become one of the dominant higher education policy strategies in Bangladesh. In shifting away from references to the ‘best practices’ or ‘international standards’ to references to the practices in ‘semi-peripheral’ countries that have similar non Western socio-economic and political spaces to Bangladesh, policy actors have been able to justify the adoption of contested neoliberal ideas into the higher education policies of Bangladesh.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Susan Webb

Additional supervisor 1

Neil Selwyn

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre


Degree Type



Faculty of Education