Capitalism in Academia and the Theory of Academic Capitalism: Political Economy of Higher Education in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

Middle East Law and Governance, 15:2, 173–196 (2023)

Taavi Sundell’s research article critically examining the political economy of Jordan’s higher education system and the theory of academic capitalism is openly available for reading here.

The theory of academic capitalism is one of the most influential approaches in the field of higher education research for explaining organizational and functional changes in universities and higher education in our time. However, within this theory, there has been little reflection on what capitalism actually entails. Furthermore, academic worlds in the global South are conspicuously absent in the literature relying on this theory.

In his article, Sundell focuses on the relatively understudied higher education landscape in Jordan and how it is intertwined with the country’s political-economic structures. The primary focus of the examination is on private for-profit universities in the country, especially those under partial foreign ownership. These themes are explored in more detail through the case of the private Petra University located in Amman. Through the example of Jordan, the article also reflects on the applicability of the theory of academic capitalism to contexts that significantly differ from those where it has primarily been developed and applied.

The article is partly based on interview data collected by Sundell in Jordan from 2015 to 2017, which he leverages to elucidate the perspectives of the country’s higher education elite on its higher education system and related reforms.