May 17, 2003

Derek Bok on the Commercialization of Higher Education

"Whether the commercialization of higher education has reached the crisis point probably is a matter of definition, but there can be no doubt that it is at least headed there. As Bok says, with characteristic understatement, American colleges and universities have fallen prey to a broad phenomenon: 'the encroachment of the marketplace on the work of hospitals, cultural institutions, and other areas of society that have traditionally been thought to serve other values.'"

-- Jonathan Yardley, Higher Education, Upping the Ante

Via the AccidentalAdmin at Financial Aid Office, Jonathan Yardley reviews Derek Bok's Universities in the Marketplace: The Commercialization of Higher Education for the Washington Post. Here's an intriguing suggestion:

It may well be the case, in fact, that the commercial pressures that business exerts on higher education -- the financial support industry offers for specialized, profit-motivated research, the funds manufacturers donate in exchange for having their logos featured on athletic teams' uniforms -- are less injurious to higher education than the pressures exerted from within. 'Universities share one characteristic with compulsive gamblers and exiled royalty,' Bok writes. 'There is never enough money to satisfy their desires,' and 'the prospect of new revenue is a powerful temptation that can easily lead decent people into unwise compromises, especially when they are under pressure to accomplish more than they can readily achieve by conventional means.'

Yardley also quotes Bok on "'a persistent tendency to exaggerate the benefits [of commercialization] and overlook or underestimate the dangers,' the greatest of which are irreversible damage 'to academic standards and institutional integrity.'"

Another title for my summer must-read list (most of which, of course, I won't actually get around to reading...)

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at May 17, 2003 01:39 AM

I remember a quote that I came across once about corporate presence on campuses in the 1960's...something about universities being turned into places that produced "shiny new parts for General Motors". The point was relevant, I think, to the question of commercialization of campuses now.

Posted by: Dr_Funk at May 18, 2003 03:42 AM

Those of us who teach online courses often find it a challenge to let schools know that we are interested/available to teach online courses for them. It is time consuming to visit school's websites, send in applications, etc. I recently learned of a new solution called FacultyFinder. It is available at On FacultyFinder faculty types can create a profile for free. The profile includes many variables such as academic background, online teaching experience, learning management system familiarity, etc. Schools can then search FacultyFinder to find online faculty members. Being a new service it is now in phase one of deployment wherein faculty types are creating profiles. Phase two will launch in April wherein schools can begin searching the database. I personally have created a profile and the school at which I serve as Dean of Distance Learning will be using FacultyFinder to help us find persons to teach online courses.

Posted by: Dr. Mac Adkins at March 17, 2004 02:27 PM