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Neoliberal influences on American higher education and the consequences for social work programmes

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Neoliberal trends have significantly altered the colleges and universities that train social workers. Social work educators should recognise how neoliberalism has influenced higher education and presented unique challenges to the mission of social work education. Higher education's main pedagogical frame – the liberal arts education – influenced the parallel evolution of social work education over the 20th century, but it is now under threat. Alongside their host universities, schools of social work are answering market-based pressures for research and curriculum that favour evidence-based micro-interventions over macro-oriented knowledge production and teaching. With global implications, this article reviews the historical development of American higher education, social work education and their intersection with neoliberalism. Consequences for the profession are examined, as are options for resisting neoliberal pressure in social work academia.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Email: [email protected]

Publication date: March 2017

This article was made available online on January 9, 2017 as a Fast Track article with title: "Neoliberal influences on American higher education and the consequences for social work programmes".

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  • An International Journal

    Critical and Radical Social Work is an exciting new journal that will promote debate and scholarship around a range of engaged social work themes. The journal publishes papers which seek to analyse and respond to issues, such as the impact of global neo-liberalism on social welfare; austerity and social work; social work and social movements; social work, inequality and oppression, and understanding and responding to global social problems (such as war, disasters and climate change).

    It welcomes contributions that consider and question themes relating to the definition of social work and social work professionalism, that look at ways in which organic and 'indigenous' practice can expand concepts of the social work project and that consider alternative and radical histories of social work activity. As a truly international journal it actively encourages contributions from academics, scholars and practitioners from across the global village.

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