The Corporate-linked University
I have been researching and writing about the university in Canada since the early 1980s. I was motivated to do this during a lengthy stint in leadership of the York University Faculty Association. It enabled me to acquire a close-at-hand, insider perspective on changes underway from the late 1970s onward that have had a significant and, in my view, detrimental effect on the university's role as a public serving educational institution.
These changes are commonly referred to as "corporatisation." Many people understand corporatisation as a one-way process through which corporate agents exert undue influence on university affairs to make them pursue objectives and work in ways that serve corporations' economic interests. But as I see it, the university has not simply fallen victim to a corporate take-over. Private sector corporations have indeed been able to shape university research and teaching activities through their increasing influence over, and participation in, various funding levers. But at the same time, universities have aggressively and shamelessly re-configured themselves to make themselves attractive to private sector investors, as well as to compete with each other for research funding that is increasingly oriented toward producing commercializable knowledge products. In other words, corporatisation has been a two-way process that has been advanced by many agents, not only individual corporations and the organizations that represent their interests but also university administrations, faculty members, research grant agencies, governments, and members of the public.
The items that will be posted on this page from time to time will attempt to describe how corporatisation has shaped and continues to shape university development and what is at stake for Canadian society if our publicly funded universities increasingly function as businesses that market knowledge-based products to paying clienteles rather than as educational institutions that serve the diverse intellectual interests of the Canadian public as a whole. The items will include publications that I have authored or jointly authored with my frequent collaborator, Professor Claire Polster of the University of Regina. They will sometimes include talk notes and short raps on timely topics. Selected writings by other commentators will also appear. The items posted here can be downloaded and freely circulated as long as appropriate acknowledgement is given to their authors and, when relevant, to the places where they were originally published, including the name and URL of this website.
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