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In a previous post, we shared responses to the question “What has been the most significant change (either positive or negative) in the higher education 'industry' since you began working in it?"  Although answers relating to the increased influence of business in higher ed and the ‘corporatization’ of the university came in fourth place in terms of number of mentions (close to a three-way tie for second, though), it would have come in first place had we measured responses by the heat or passion of the response.

Of the 46 responses mentioning the increased influence of business in higher ed, the vast majority of them were quite clear that they believe this to be a very negative change.  Some of these comments include: 

“The most significant change has been higher education’s attempt to become a lean and mean money-making ‘industry’ instead of an institution with an important social and educational mission that served the nation and the world.  The corporatization of the university is the end of the public university (I say ‘public’ because I think that private institutions, less battered by political winds and the funding whims of state legislatures, will probably maintain some semblance of this mission).  The mission of the higher ed institutions that I was educated to teach in was not to produce trained cogs for the corporate machine, but to produce independent, critical thinkers who are equipped to leave the world better than they found it.  Apparently there is no longer perceived as a desirable outcome.  And I don’t want to leave what has happened to K-12 education off the hook: what today’s student body is, is what K-12 education has made it.  It is endlessly amazing to me how hard we have worked to cripple education in this country – not just higher education.”

“The ‘business attitude’ that has become a part of the daily life at most institutions.  Today we don’t worry so much about educating students, as providing service to a consumer.  When ‘the customer is always right,’ how do you give the customer what he/she needs instead of what he/she wants?  How can we put the integrity and accountability back into education?”

 “I am appalled by the shift in focus to just being concerned about the numbers. . . . what happened to the student friendly atmosphere?”

“The corporate model take-over.  As an administrator, I believe that executive decisions do have to be made, but dream of a place where ‘the bottom line’ isn’t the driving force behind those choices.”

“Most significant change is the move to restructure the institution into a market driven rather than high quality educational institution.”

“The imposition of the corporate model – definitely a negative change.”

“More arrogance and greed at the executive and upper management levels and exploitation of students, faculty and staff.”

“People coming into leadership positions who have never worked in higher ed and who try to make it operated strictly like a business.”

“Campuses are more like corporations than they were before.  The bottom line isn’t about educating students.  It’s about the money and the school’s reputation.”

“The corporate business model.  I’ve seen ‘the heart’ go out of my current institution.  People are treated like line items on a ledger sheet.”

“Negative: the growing influence of the business mindset I’ve seen in presidents and top administrators from business, push for numbers, top-down decision-making, and lack of respect for faculty work.  Frankly, I think much of this is reflected in the rush to online education.”

However, there was at least one person that found the increased business focus to be a positive:

“Increased use of a business model for leadership and strategic planning – I see this as a positive.”

What do you think?  Is the increasing focus on the business aspects of higher education a positive or negative change? What makes you say this?



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