The Academic-Industrial Complex


The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that in the year 2000, colleges received more than $1 billion in receipts from patent licenses, a record for this type of income. Nineteen institutions each received more than $10 million, writes Derek Bok, the former president of Harvard, in his recent book, “Universities in the Marketplace: The Commercialization of Higher Education” (Princeton University Press).

Eric Gould, the chairman of the English department at the University of Denver, agrees that colleges are striving for a balance but adds that universities and their critics both ignore the cultural contradictions that have existed all along .

In his new book, “The University in a Corporate Culture” (Yale University Press), he argues that the dichotomy between the academy and the market is false. He points to two recent surveys (one by The Chronicle of Higher Education, one by the Educational Testing Service) that show that Americans are overwhelmingly confident in their colleges and universities. They are confident, he says, because the American university has been the primary engine for economic development in the last hundred years, its growth paralleling the growth of liberal capitalism. Colleges, after all, train people for the marketplace, offer courses in response to that market and help people advance socially and economically.

Christopher Newfield, an English professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, also points to the close connection that has always existed between the business world and the academy. In his forthcoming book, “Ivy and Industry: Business and the Making of the American University, 1880-1980” (Duke University Press), Mr. Newfield explores the heyday of industrial capitalism, when the university became central to economic production. In this period of economic uncertainty, he says, there is a deepening fear that the country will not be able to produce a long period of stable affluence like the one that followed World War II.

Like Mr. Gould, he calls for a better balance between the two historical objectives of the university: economic development and human development. He said that as a discipline, the humanities has always understood “the difference between art and work.”

“What a lot of higher education is doing is selling a trade education that is part of an old economy,” he added. The new economy, he says, demands creativity.

The actual article is much longer. There is also an interesting piece on this matter by Andrea Smith. I am new to the term, and I love it, but it is apparently well known in the sciences. There is a book on it by Jennifer Washburn. There is an article by Barbara Culliton. I have only just begun to search, but I believe I list many of the most cited texts here. Let me know.


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