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Agora.EducatingExchangesr1.20 - 13 Feb 2020 - 15:34 - GregorioIvanoff

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NEWSON, Janice. The Corporate-Linked University: From Social Project to Market Force. York University. © Canadian Journal of Communication - Volume 23, Number 1, 1998. Available from < >.

Janice Newson is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at York University, 4700 Keele Street, North York (Toronto), ON M3J 1P3.

Abstract: Recently, Canadian university campuses have begun to display signs of increasing corporate influence in their affairs. In spite of the recent appearance of these signs, the foundation was laid in the early 1980s for this increasing corporate influence through the shift in government policies and the political effectiveness of groups like the Corporate-Higher Education Forum, the Business Council on National Issues, and the Canadian Manufacturer's Association. However, universities themselves have neither been passive nor helpless in relation to these external pressures. They have been active agents in a process of self-transformation in which budget-based rationalization and corporate linking have been their means of institutional survival. As a consequence, universities are now functioning less as institutions whose essence derives from their educational and scholarly commitments and more as businesses that deliver educational services and produce knowledge-based products.


For instance, the idea that universities can enter into partnerships in which knowledge is traded off for money implies that "knowledge" can be bundled up into neat packages and a precise monetary value can be attached to them. To accomplish this end, knowledge needs to be quantified and measured in terms of its economic "exchange" value. Practical questions must be resolved. How much money for how much knowledge? How is it possible to ensure that the "search for knowledge" will produce a result that will be of marketable value to the client? Who will then "own" the knowledge that is produced?

Answers to these practical questions are found in the various types of contracts and in a wide range of university-industrial linking mechanisms that are worked out by university researchers and administrations with the funding bodies -- government agencies, research councils, and corporate clients. Senior-level administrative positions -- usually at the level of vice-president -- are oriented toward seeking out (mainly paying) clients and markets for the university's knowledge-based products. Some university professors have re-fashioned themselves as intellectual entrepreneurs who can bridge the gap between academic and commercial worlds through setting up private companies, sometimes on campus , in which both they and the university own shares. Granting councils have developed targeted and strategic research programs that ensure that the knowledge search will be designed to produce the knowledge that will be useful to specific clienteles and markets. Patent agreements and the expanding jurisprudence around "intellectual property rights" embody the idea that knowledge can be commodified and thus offered for sale and appropriated as the protected (even private) property of an owner.

As well, around the edges of the traditional university, new structures have emerged that increasingly assume a central place in achieving the (shifting) objectives of the university. For example, spinoff companies, centres of excellence, innovation centres for technology transfer, and various other units which embody corporate-university partnerships draw on the university's faculty and support staff resources, operating funds, and share of research monies. In a sense, they represent shadow institutions which gain legitimacy from their connection to the academy but are not subject to its academic control.

The attempt in the early 1990s to locate the permanent campus of the International Space University (the ISU) at York University, with satellite campuses throughout the Ontario higher education system, is a good illustration. ... The governing board of the proposed ISU included representatives of foreign and transnational companies, including military contractors. The bid clearly anticipated that, within a short time, the ISU would become an autonomous, private, higher education institution, requiring special provincial legislation since no such institutions currently exist in Ontario. This special status institution was to be significantly interlinked with many other Ontario universities, as well as satellite campuses in the United States and throughout the world. The ISU project represented an attempt to construct a transnational corporate-linked higher education institution which would primarily serve the commercial interests of aerospace and telecommunications corporations but would be significantly funded through public monies.

The ISU episode illustrates well the relationships among universities, government, and corporate-sector partners that are emerging in the context of universities responding to their fiscal pressures by shifting their objectives toward the promotion of corporate sector development and commercializing their activities. Implicit in this set of relationships is a way of thinking about universities -- about their buildings, their personnel, the special skills of their faculty, their students, and primarily their capacity to create and disseminate knowledge -- as essentially economic resources that can be employed for achieving market objectives. In fact, university-corporate linking has opened the door to a potentially more significant development; that is, the university's traditional activities -- creating and disseminating knowledge -- are increasingly being pursued from within the university as commercial ventures oriented toward profit-making for the university and /or its associated faculties, schools, or centres as corporate entities, and sometimes for individual professors and researchers who utilize the opportunities made available to them for their own financial benefit. Similar relationships characterize other types of commercially oriented educational projects that are being initiated through the provision of public monies to Centres of Excellence and other types of university-industry research centres. What is not acknowledged or accommodated in this way of thinking is whether and how the means that are thus employed to appropriate the university's resources for a variety of economic purposes alters the university's social objective of producing and disseminating knowledge that is accessible and meaningful to the needs of the broadest spectrum of Canadian society; and whether this alteration diminishes the university's more broadly based educational purposes and transforms its essential character as an educational institution. Moreover, this appropriation of the university and its resources to support various forms of corporate and entrepreneurial profit-making activities is taking place in the context of a publicly funded system of higher education. Although the possibility of privatizing universities has been frequently bandied about and debated, the direction that is in fact being pursued gives rise to hybrid institutions which are primarily supported through the public purse but are increasingly utilized for private benefits: at the extreme, these institutions are publicly subsidized profit-generating institutions that serve particular markets and paying clienteles.

Keywords: commercially oriented educational projects, shift in government policies, university work context, knowledge-based products, society-led change, change in communication, meaning in society, development in society, society in meaning, political structures, aerospace industry, services design, market design, school linkages, thinking skills, funding bodies, Canada

Português: trocas em educação

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-- GregorioIvanoff - 27 Aug 2015
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