Global inequalities in knowledge production and distribution: Implications for higher education

Global inequalities in knowledge production and distribution: Implications for higher education

Published on 14 February 2019

On Tuesday 12 February, Dr Budd Hall, Co-Chair of the UNESCO Chair in Community Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education and ACU Engage Community Steering Committee member, gave an insightful talk on the stark inequalities in knowledge production and distribution globally.

Global inequalities in wealth, health, availability of housing and access to clean water are widely known. However, less is known about inequalities in the production and distribution of knowledge around the world. With 70% of content creation coming from Europe and North America and only one author from the Global South in the top 25 publications on Google Scholar, the inequalities are clear to see.

Dr Hall took the audience through the causes of this gap and the challenges faced across the Global South and by indigenous communities around the world, which include:

  • Epistemicide (the killing off of one knowledge system by another through for example colonisation)
  • A lack of funding for research
  • Ranking systems that place importance on international journals, rather than local ones
  • Heavy workloads for academics
  • The high cost of publications and the dominance of English as the language for publications, putting those with English as their second or third language at a distinct disadvantage

The audience was then challenged to interrogate their own approaches and think in groups about how the higher education sector can tackle these issues together. Ideas put forward included North-South collaborations and skills sharing, open access, online platforms, providing support for early career researchers, lobbying publishers, self-publishing, the decolonisation of the curricula, giving recognition to indigenous knowledge and local ways of knowing and doing, and working closely with indigenous communities so that they set the agenda.

Dr Hall concluded: 'Knowledge inequality is a powerful part of inequality. In universities, we have agency. We have some ways of doing something about it.' 

What will you do in your university? We'd love to hear from you – tweet us @The_ACU or email engage@acu.ac.uk with your ideas. 

The event was attended by more than 40 representatives of member universities and local organisations, including SOAS, the University of Brighton, the Bloomsbury Institute, the University of Greenwich, King's College London, Coventry University, University College London, Birkbeck, University of London, What Works Centre for Wellbeing, the Commonwealth Consortium for Education and the Participatory City Foundation.

More information

Budd Hall is a Professor of Community Development at the University of Victoria in Canada. His roots in participatory research go back to the early 1970s when we was working at the Institute of Adult Education at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. He has worked with Rajesh Tandon in various settings for 40 years. He has served as the Secretary-General of the International Council for Adult Education. In the university world he has been a Chair of Adult Education, a Dean of Education and the founder of the Office of Community-Based Research at the University of Victoria. His research is in the areas of social movement learning, knowledge democracy, community-based research and higher education and social responsibility.

For further information, please email engage@acu.ac.uk