Chapter 5

Academic Capitalism

Christina Chow and Clement Leung


This chapter looks at the changing relationship between the students and the universities with increased marketisation of higher education. As students are increasingly viewed as customers, academic education is reduced to student satisfaction surveys, quality control, performance measures, quantification of the student experience, and ranking and league tables. Critics have argued that commodification of education leads to standardisation, formulaic teaching, and reducing quality into quantity, intellectual rigour into customer service. Universities have embraced the market logic of growth, competition and commercial techniques in promoting and encouraging academic capitalism and entrepreneurship. There is also a change in university governance reflecting the change in the dynamics of the three determining forces: the state authority, the market and the academe. The spread of neoliberalism and new public management have resulted in a market-oriented model of governance. In this model, the institutional balance of power resides with the senior management who has greater control in the selection and appointment of academic personnel. With the strengthening of managerial control and weakening of academic affiliation, universities are moving away from the traditional idea of academic self-governance and the Humboldtian idea of a university. Universities are increasingly required to align institutional priorities with national economic and social goals. Consequently, there is a mixture of demands, including clearer accountability to society; contribution to equity and expanded access; ensuring quality of teaching and learning are relevant to learner and market needs; research feeding into industry and community engagement; and contributing to internationalisation and international competitiveness. As a result, academic freedom is under threat from this new form of institutional governance.

Total Pages: 73-78 (6)

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