Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Deron Boyles

Second Advisor

Dr. Philo Hutcheson

Third Advisor

Dr. Kristen Buras

Fourth Advisor

Dr. M. Lane Bruner

Fifth Advisor

Dr. Kenneth Saltman


Since 1962, the World Bank has involved itself in higher education discourse and practice through the provision of loans and grants to developing nations. Initially, such involvement focused primarily on tangible infrastructure projects such as building schools and providing textbooks for students. Over time, however, the Bank has increasingly come to involve itself in less tangible projects such as policy work, technical assistance, and educational discourse – including the creation of the imaginary of the Global Knowledge Economy (GKE). Through this increased focus on higher education policy and discourse, the Bank has come to wield increasing authority over the discourse of knowledge and its means of production. In order to better elucidate the rising authority of the World Bank over higher education and discourses of knowledge production, this dissertation explores the historical development of the Bank’s work in higher education broadly, as well as in two specific countries, Morocco and Indonesia. The dissertation studies the Bank’s involvement in higher education through a critical historical method, which combines traditional historical analysis with a critical policy studies lens. Through this analysis, I argue that the authority of the World Bank over the discourse and practice of higher education and knowledge production has increased significantly through time due to the Bank’s role in the creation of a new global profession of higher education economists, and that this increased authority reveals an underlying irony in the Bank’s thinking and operations. The irony is that the Bank relies upon a fundamental belief in the power of free markets in the economic sphere, but increasingly deploys methods of centralized planning over higher education and knowledge production through these new professionals. This profession is allowed to flourish in part because the Bank and the GKE both exist within a global realm in which the global public sphere has not been clarified. This dissertation adds to the historical record of the Bank’s involvement in higher education discourse, policy and practice, while also exploring the need for more robust theories of the public sphere and for alternative views of knowledge and education at the global level.