It’s easy to blame administrators and Boards of Governors for the growing trend toward corporatization in our universities. But according to Jamie Brownlee, a political economist, sociologist and author of the new book Academia Inc., provincial and federal governments play a major role.

In an article in Academic Matters, Dr. Brownlee identifies government underfunding as a driving force in the process of corporatization.

“The logic is simple: once underfunding has undermined the integrity and functionality of a public system, corporations and market-oriented bureaucrats are invited to come in and reinvigorate these “failing” institutions through restructuring or privatization,” he writes. “In some cases, this need to shift to a corporate model has been clearly articulated by political, business, and even university leaders.”

At the same time as university operating funds are being cut back, more government money is being channeled into targeted research — research that specifically supports the private sector and the links between universities and industry. He cites statistics showing that sponsored research in Canada’s 25 largest universities accounted for 15 per cent of university expenditures in 1988; by 2008, the figure had grown to 25 per cent.

Other consequences of government policies and austerity measures include:

  • Increased reliance on contract faculty.
  • High tuition fees, a “customers pay” approach to university financing and escalating student debt.
  • Equating “innovation” with “commercialization.”
  • Universities devoting increased resources to fundraising, external relations and other non-academic functions.
  • Greater government interference in university governance: e.g. “mandate letters.”
  • Appointment of more executives from management consulting firms to university boards.

Dr. Brownlee says these trends fly in the face of public opinion: “on virtually every measure, the public opposes a corporatization agenda.”

“Governments are supposed to represent the will of the people on matters of public policy. In the area of higher education, they simply have not,” he concludes

Click here to read the full article.