Thursday, May 04, 2006

Corporate University

I work at a college, actually two colleges to be precise. As I have pursued a graduate degree and due to other circumstances, I have in fact been affiliated and involved in academia for my entire adult life. My professional background is as an entrepreneur and my post-graduate education and much of my work experience has revolved around management with a focus on the IT sector and specifically software development. Overall the training and experience I have has been largely based on current business and engineering practices and to a large extent I believe these practices to be valuable and beneficial insofar as producing high quality work products (which of course are useful in both a capitalist and socialist mode of production).

The past few years I have seen a transformation at my workplace from a traditional helter-skelter academic environment to an increasingly corporatized management approach. In addition, there has been a focused drive to expand the physical plant of the campus and to build "modern" structures in order to remain "competitive" and expand the student body.

A snippet of a Logos Journal article titled "The Corporate University in American Society" posted by the Unrepentant Marxist offers some insight into what is driving this process at our little college as we are responding to mega-trends that are impacting all of academia:
Higher education in America is being transformed by the contradictions that have historically defined and determined its existence. Seen as an educational institution, its importance lies in empowering individuals—both within the academy and outside—to become critical and knowledgeable citizens capable of self-governance in a democracy. Seen as an economic institution, its value lies in producing trained subservient workers for employers, and in socializing many of the costs necessary to sustain profit accumulation in a capitalist society.

Yet while for much of their existence colleges and universities have managed to hold these twin imperatives in balance, political-economic forces such as globalization, an increasingly conservative political agenda, and a tightening of public financial support for higher education have tipped the balance, resulting in the emergence of the corporate university. As corporatized entities, American colleges and universities are under increasing pressure to emulate other market participants and operate in ways that affect their governance and structure, as well as how they generate revenue. The result is that the new corporate university seeks to jettison many of the traditional manifestations of higher education, such as tenure, academic freedom, and shared governance, and replace them with a business model of management and more adjunct faculty who are viewed as mere employees. The need to do this is simple—less revenue to support colleges and universities is coming from the government, thereby forcing higher education to reduce labor costs and also seek financial support from private sector investors who view the traditional mission of these schools with suspicion.

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