Adrianna J. Kezar: Obtaining Integrity? Reviewing and Examining the Charter between Higher Education and Society

Adrianna J. Kezar: Obtaining Integrity? Reviewing and Examining the Charter between Higher Education and Society
The Review of Higher Education - Volume 27, Number 4, Summer 2004, pp. 429-459

“If we continue to subsume the academic functions of the university into its corporate identity, building institutions for the sake of the institutions themselves and losing sight of the fact that it is in teaching, research, and scholarship that universities make their distinctive social contributions, we will impoverish the university as an institution and pave the way for the shift of its academic functions into a generic corporate environment. This might be good for business, but it would not be very good for education” (Marginson, 2000, p. 35).

Various social critics and leaders have noted a disturbing trend in higher education: the collective or public good, an historically important component of the charter between higher education and society, is being compromised (Bok, 1990 & 1982; Gumport, 2000; Kerr, 1994). Social institutions such as universities and colleges serve long-standing and stable missions for society and have a core set of values to support such a mission (Gumport, 2000). Traditionally higher education’s public role and contribution to the public good has included educating citizens for democratic engagement, supporting local and regional communities, preserving knowledge and making it available to the community, working in concert with other social institutions such as government or healthcare in order to foster their missions, advancing knowledge through research, developing the arts and humanities, broadening access to ensure a diverse democracy, developing the intellectual talents of students, and creating leaders for various areas of the public sector (Bok, 1982; Gumport, 2000).

According to critics, higher education is forgoing its role as a social institution and is functioning increasingly as an industry with fluctuating, predominantly economic goals and market-oriented values (Bok, 1982; Gumport, 2000; Kerr, 1994; Rhoades, 1996; Slaughter, 1993; Slaughter & Rhoades, 1997). Increasingly, the production of workers is the primary or singular goal of higher education (Kerr, 1994). Furthermore, critics are concerned that the current charter encourages ethical and educational compromises that are potentially harmful for higher education and the general public, especially as it relates to the historic mission of fostering democracy and important values such as equality, academic freedom, or pursuit of knowledge (Slaughter, 1988; Soley, 1995; Sperber, 2000). Gumport (2000) states that: “I am concerned that technical, market imperatives run wild, urging colleges and universities to adapt to short term market demands, to redeploy resources, in an effort to reposition themselves with an increasingly competitive context” at the expense of long-term goals and commitments (p. 70). This closer connection to economic and private goals has resulted in several benefits for higher education including growth in the number of institutions, increased funding, more opportunities for research, and the like. However, social commentators caution that these trends have by now become excessive in relation to the other purposes of higher education and wholesale adaptation to market pressures compromises the longer-term public and democratic interests that have always characterized higher education.

Social commentators note that this orientation to the market and economic goals is a worldwide phenomenon and is even more extreme within developing countries where economic advancement has become the cornerstone of political and educational agendas (Bertelson, 1998; Brown & Schubert, 2000; Currie & Newson, 1998). They observe that governing powers in these countries have redefined the public good as private advancement and economic attainment, abandoning long-standing missions of social development, social justice, and democratic engagement. Other critics do not focus on globalization trends and instead connect the change in the charter in higher education more to local societal forces, for example, the trend toward greater individualism and a move away from community involvement (Giroux, 1995); privatization and corporatization of public life as represented through the HMO system in medical care (Soley, 1995); an increasing tendency since the 1950s amongst advanced economies to tie economic development to higher education’s “production” of workers especially in fields such as science, technology, and engineering (Kerr, 1994); and further commercialization and marketization of public life, in part due to supply-side economics of the 1980s and 1990s (Slaughter, 1998). No matter which forces are focused on, the result of these complex interactions appears to be that the charter between higher education and society is being rewritten both in the U.S and abroad.

Why does a discussion of the charter between higher education and society matter? Because the charter is the foundation of higher education institutions’ missions and values and it affects choices made by all individuals in the system of higher education from policymakers to parents to faculty to students (Kerr, 1994; Veysey, 1965). For example, if policymakers and the general public are not clear about why investment in higher education matters and do not appreciate the social and public benefits, other public policy priorities may end up gaining more support than higher education. Critics suggest that divesting from higher education will lead to growing economic and social disparities, increased expenditure on social welfare programs, inability to compete in an increasingly technological world economy, declining quality of living, and diminished civic engagement (TERI, 1998). The negotiations about the charter also assist in defining problems. For example, policymakers need to understand the limitations and potential dangers of relying on private and corporate sources for supporting higher education (Currie & Newson, 1998; Kerr, 1994).

The notion of the charter suggests that higher education and society are always renegotiating their appropriate relationship. In addition, the charter is an intentional notion; society and higher education mutually set the parameters for this relationship. In order to be intentional, societal and higher education leaders need information about the state of the charter. Much of the literature on this topic is philosophical, conceptual, or anecdotal. For example, Derek Bok’s, Universities and the Future of America (1990) describes the rise of commercialized research and athletics as well as faculty commitment conflict. However, this work is not based on his research, but focuses exclusively on the experiences of Harvard University. Skocpol and Fiorina (1999) and Powell and Clemens (1998) have conceptualized new notions of the public good. In contrast to these earlier anecdotes and conceptualizations, this paper adopts a utilitarian philosophy. Within this philosophical stance, policymakers need empirical evidence to make decisions. For example, what are the consequences and affect of changes in the charter? A series of empirical studies have been conducted by Slaughter (1993 & 1998) and Rhoades (1995 & 1998) on intellectual property and commercialization of research, Fairweather (1996) on the commitment conflict of faculty; Gumport (2000) and Kerr (1994) on the corporatization of management, Sperber (2000) on the commercialization of athletics, and Gumport (1993) on the emergence of a more market oriented curriculum, but there has been no synthesis of these various lines of research in order to assist policymakers and leaders in interpreting the current state of the charter and its affect on traditional notions of the public good.

The purpose of this paper is to review and analyze key empirical research related to the new industrial model, which is characterized by privatization, commercialization, and corporatization in order to determine its pervasiveness and affect that can be used to guide policymakers and leaders discussions. The paper will begin with a section that defines the notion of the public good, charter, and the industrial model as well as introduce three philosophies that have been used to understand the public good and charter —communitarianism, liberalism/neoliberalism, and utilitarianism -- to set the article in context. The middle section of the paper reviews evidence from empirical studies about the existence and affect of a new industrial model that has resulted in an economic/private charter.

Some scholars suggest that one of the primary challenges of our time is the need to create a new vision for higher education that respects a balance between market forces and the public good (Kerr, 1994; Zemsky, 1993). Without an understanding of the current charter, and some of the costs and benefits, it will be difficult to formulate such a vision. It is tempting, as a scholar, to put forth a new conceptualization of what the new charter should be and there are some scholars who are engaged with this work (Powell & Clemens, 1998; Salamon, 2002; Skocpol & Fiorina, 1999; Weisbrod, 1998). However, the purpose of this paper is not to put forward one person’s view of how higher education and society should re-negotiate the charter. Instead, the purpose of this paper is to review and analyze the empirical research about the change in notions of the public good and the charter to try to inform dialogues that need to take place collectively.


In this section, I will define the key terms within this paper: public good, charter, and industrial model of higher education. I also review some philosophies -- communitarianism, liberalism/neoliberalism, and utilitarianism -- that help to conceptualize the relationship between the public good, the charter between higher education and society, and models of the charter (Please see diagram at the end of this section for a summary of these relationships). Since this article reviews empirical research to inform policy and is not conceptual or philosophical, these definitions and concepts are presented briefly. Although all concepts reviewed in this section inform the thinking in this paper, ultimately, I adopt a utilitarian approach to the examination of the public good and charter. In the past two decades, much of the literature about the charter and public good has highlighted the dichotomy between neoliberals and communitarians. I believe that fruitful progress to defining a charter can be made through a utilitarian approach, which recent thinkers in political science, sociology, and public affairs (Powell & Clemens, 1998; Salamon, 2002) also advocate. The empirical data presented within this article is the type of information needed to guide decision-making within a utilitarian philosophy. However, the literature that I have synthesized can also inform the work of communitarians or neoliberals and help to develop dialogue between these groups.

It is important to begin by defining the public good, since the charter emerges from this concept. In social and political philosophy, the notion of the public good or common good has been debated for thousands of years. As Powell and Clemens note, the public good will always be “unsettled and contested and is part of the unsettled and contested nature of politics itself” (p. 4, 1998). Three philosophies are typically associated with views of the public good: communitarianism, liberalism, and utilitarianism (Noddings, 1998). [1] Although these philosophies have broader implications for political life, they will only be discussed as they relate to the specific notion of the public good. The two prevailing views have been liberalism (the rights of the individual preceding the state) and communitarianism (the rights of the community preceding individual rights). Liberalism focuses on protecting private freedoms and rights and was instrumental in breaking down hierarchical privileges and arrangements (e.g. member of a particular church or guild) that made individual advancement extremely difficult (Apple, 2001). The public good was “less an ideal to be consciously pursued by government than the outcome of free individuals pursuit of their myriad private ambitions” (p. 13, Apple, 2001). Thus, the common or public good is assumed to have emerged from focusing on protection of individual rights and freedoms. Communitarianism stipulates that rights and responsibilities be defined at the community, not at the individual level. Government and/or social groups are instrumental in promoting the general welfare or public good because individuals are too self-interested and will forsake important societal needs (Noddings, 1998). The public good is seen as the state’s responsibility while a healthy balance needs to be reached between individual autonomy and social cohesion (Bellah, 1996; Etzioni, 1996). These simplified explanations do little justice to two complex philosophies that have changed over time. My intention, however, is to highlight the essential elements of these philosophies, as they represent a dichotomous line of thinking that still undergirds policymaking and conceptualizations of the public good.

In the early 1800s, the utilitarian notion of the public good became more prominent in the United States, where it has guided much thinking in political circles. [2] Utilitarianism is a form of consequentialism, which defines as right those actions that bring about the most good or happiness overall (Noddings, 1998). Within this belief system, the public good can only be determined by looking at the state of the world after a particular approach to the public good is taken. Philosophies or actions have no moral value, what matters is their effect on society. The affect on individuals supercedes the affect on groups or society at large and everyone’s happiness or good is important to consider (Nodding, 1998). Utilitarianism has an egalitarian strand similar to liberalism in its insistence that everyone’s happiness should be considered. Scholars such as John Dewey (1916) argued that focusing on the outcomes of practices rather than examining the philosophies from which they emanated ensured the public good. Utilitarianism has become prominent largely because it does not require everyone to agree on ethical first principles before action is taken. Policymakers are encouraged to examine the consequences of various decisions related to the public good. A shift toward privatization and commercialization would not necessarily be considered problematic; instead, policymakers should examine the costs and benefits of this paradigm shift for the charter between society and higher education.

Recent writings on the public good are situated within the utilitarian approach, moving beyond dichotomized approaches of communitarianism and liberalism. Powell and Clemens (1998) and Salamon (2002) have argued for conceptualizing public and private interests as more congruent and compatible. Powell and Clemens (1998) suggest that asking people to act in the public good (defined as ‘community interests first’) and not in their “self-interest asks them to leave the terrain in which their everyday experience gives them relatively reliable messages on what is good for them and to enter a terrain in which, because uncertainty is far greater, authoritative others play a far greater role in suggesting what the public good should be” (p. 17, 1998). This approach sees individual and private interests as being in active yet fruitful, contestation with public and social goods. A new framework for conceptualizing the public good is emerging: “this framework emphasizes the collaborative nature of modern efforts to meet human needs, the widespread use of tools of action and that engage complex networks of public and private actors” (Salamon, 2002, p. vii). Within the new governance paradigm, the sharp division between public and private spheres is blended without blurring the differences. Consequently, each maintains its individual role, but work in concert together as part of a network.

The “social” charter between higher education and society that commentators (Bok, 1990 & 1982; Gumport, 2000; Kerr, 1994) have been concerned about losing can be aligned with communitarian philosophy in which the community proceeds the individual and the state is instrumental in developing public institutions that support and promote the needs of individuals (Noddings, 1998). For much of the last hundred years, higher education in the United States can be seen to mirror the communitarian belief system with its emphasis on goals such as development of leaders, serving the needs of regional and local communities, or acting as societal critic. In the last two decades, the emergence of Neoliberal philosophy has resulted in a move away from the traditional “social” charter between higher education and society that was built on a communitarian philosophy of the public good. Neoliberalism is an alteration of traditional views of liberalism. Neoliberal philosophy is built on the belief in a weak state and that what is private is necessarily good and what is public is necessarily bad (Apple, 2001). Economic rationality supercedes all other forms of logic and people are to act in ways that maximize their own personal benefits (Apple, 2001). There is a strong focus on the needs of the individual superceding and leading to a stronger public good. Also, private enterprise supports the public good more than public institutions. Slaughter and Rhoades describe how state and federal policymakers in the 1980s supported the rise of neoliberal philosophy and what its effect has been on higher education (Please see these citations for a detailed description of this process: Slaughter, 1998; Slaughter & Rhoades, 1993; Slaughter & Rhoades, 1996). Yet, this dichotomous illustration is heuristic and does not reflect of the complex way the public good and charter have been redefined over time. By describing the dynamic nature of the charter, this will become more clear.

The notion of the public good and of the charter are closely related, in fact the latter emerges from the former. The charter between higher education and society, which is ongoing and meaningful, is generally defined as the reciprocal relationship between higher education and society. This relationship is seen as legal in that it is invested with certain fiduciary responsibility and rights, as well as a covenant built on trust. Society provides resources, political support, raw materials, and a guiding influence. In return, colleges and universities educate students, serve as developers and repositories of knowledge, provide social critique, and contribute to the community. The essential elements of this charter began with the founding of Harvard College (Brubacher & Rudy, 1997). Since then there have been a series of enduring questions: In what ways should higher education fulfill its various roles? What is the “public good” and who defines it? These and related questions have been asked repeatedly and the answers have changed over time.

The charter is a system of checks and balances. When higher education drifted too far from serving the public good as defined in the charter, it was redirected. For example, when colleges refused to add the sciences to the curriculum or drop Latin and Greek in the early 1800s, societal pressure pushed institutions to alter their traditional curriculum (Brubacher & Rudy, 1997). In the 1860s, higher education leaders wished to emulate the German research institutions, yet there was little public support. It took time for the general public and legislators to be convinced of the benefits to society-- museums, basic research--that would accrue from an investment in this new form of higher education. In the 1890s, the necessity of public service was impressed on higher education leading institutions across the country to become actively involved in solving problems such as poverty, health care, and urbanization (Rudolph, 1962; Veysey, 1965). During the World War I, universities functioned as boot camps to help train soldiers, however, in World War II, higher education leaders convinced government officials that society would be better served if soldiers were trained in languages and foreign studies, rather than fed directly into the military (Curti, 1942; Gruber, 1975). After World War II higher education’s mandate was to increase access and generate more research. As a result institutional size and function altered dramatically: war veterans gained access and the research function grew, primarily in the area of biological and physical sciences (Fairweather, 1996).

But the perennial tensions remain. For example, what constitutes the public good? How is the public good related to serving democracy? At one time, it meant being responsive to the nation’s economic and human capital needs as well as strengthening America’s military prowess. At other times it has meant contributing to the betterment of society, and ameliorating its social problems. It would be disingenuous to suggest that these changes were always intentional or followed careful analysis. Yet, some of the charter’s most far-reaching changes were carefully negotiated, namely, the landgrant movement, the G.I. Bill, and research university model. Most suggest that the charter has been more communitarian in character, directed at community, as opposed to individual, needs--until recently (Kerr, 1996).

As noted earlier, the tenor of the charter is largely contingent on the notion of the public good guiding decision-makers. That is, whether they are informed by a communitarian, liberal, or utilitarian philosophy. Each belief system has different implications for the charter. Thus the industrial or entrepreneurial model of higher education owes its existence largely to the ascendance of neoliberalism. In neoliberal logic college and university students are seen as human capital requiring the skills necessary to compete in the job market. They are ‘customers’; education is a ‘product’. Higher education’s primary goal in the past two decades has been the production of highly skilled workers (Kerr, 1994). Following neoliberal philosophy, publicly funded colleges and universities are now encouraged to privatize selected activities, becoming for-profit entities with economic engines and with private and economic, as opposed to, public and social goals (Currie & Newson, 1998; Slaughter & Rhoades, 1998). In exchange for increased opportunities for entrepreneurial sources of revenue, universities receive less funding. Higher education has always served the labor market to some degree, but production of highly skilled workers was never its primary goal (Kerr, 1994). Three main trends--privatization, commercialization, and corporatization, are all features of neoliberalism and have spawned the industrial model of higher education. Other terms for this model used in the literature include ‘entrepreneurial’ and ‘corporate.’ Diagram 1 summarizes the ideas in this section and shows how various interpretations of the public good result in different charters between higher education and society and lead to distinctive models of operation for higher education institutions.

Diagram 1 -- Relationship of philosophies of public good, charters, and models of higher education

Communitarianism = social and public charter = traditional model

Neoliberalism = individual and economic charter = industrial model

Utilitarianism = changing and contested charter = blending of both models

I want to remind the reader that this is only a heuristic device for conceptualizing some of the main concepts described in this section. As the brief review of the history of changes in the charter between higher education and society illustrated, modifications are on-going, complex, and driven by a multitude of sources. The social and public charter, although changing in definition, has long characterized higher education. It is the shift from the social or public charter to the individual and economic charter that is the focus of this paper. I now turn to the review of the empirical data related to alteration in notions of the public good, evidence of a new charter between higher education and society, and consequences of changes in the charter.


There are core issues that need to be examined in order to frame policy and leadership discussions from a utilitarian perspective: the existence and magnitude of the problem and costs and benefits. This section of the paper will be organized around these components. This synthesis explores whether an industrial model with corporate, private and commercial characteristics is pervasive within higher education creating a private, economic charter. I show how the shift from public/social to private/economic has affected core higher education activities such as administration, governance, curriculum, research, faculty roles, and athletics. In addition to describing the nature and magnitude of this trend, I examine evidence about whether these changes are altering the core characteristics and nature of higher education institutions, and focus specifically on how it is shaping the traditional, “social” charter. While some of the changes described in this section may be desirable, it is important that higher education leaders have the opportunity to examine them critically before making decisions about the changes to the charter.

A few caveats about this research. Several aspects of the industrial model have been empirically documented, but others (especially the affect of the model) are more difficult to measure or observe. Therefore, the full magnitude of its impact may be deeper than is currently appreciated. The research on the affects of these trends is even broader than presented, but because of space limitations, I present the key areas so that the reader has a sense of how the industrial model is affecting the charter and notions of the public good. It is important to note that most of the recent research on these issues has taken place in the research university context and to a lesser extent in comprehensive institutions and community colleges. There is a body of research from the 1970s and 1980s that examines the shift in liberal arts colleges to a more vocationalized curriculum and the alteration of institutional mission and faculty worklife (for example see Zammuto, 1984). This paper focuses on the research from universities and comprehensive institutions. It is likely that these trends affect the entire system, although to a lesser degree. There is also the difficulty of determining whether other forces beyond the change to the industrial model affected some the of problems identified such as the move away from teaching and focus on applied research. Many scholars have documented how campus reward structures devalue teaching and service, for example (Boyer, 1990; Fairweather, 1996). I concede that it is difficult to prove causality among some trends. Yet, it still seems important to show how certain problems are amplified by the industrial models as well as to document new trends created by commercialization such as compromising research integrity.

The Existence And Magnitude Of The Problem

Perhaps the most important question that policymakers and leaders need evidence about is the extent of the problem. Stakeholders are constantly asserting the significance of an issue, thus, to prioritize, the magnitude of an issue needs to be analyzed. In addition, those from a communitarian perspective will have evidence about whether higher education has moved away from traditional obligations and neoliberals can determine if they have been successful in attempting to alteration the charter. This is also the area where the majority of the empirical evidence exists. This section is divided into the main areas that have been studied related to an industrial model: corporatization of management, commercialization of research, faculty commitment conflict and disenfranchisement, vocationalized curriculum, and commercialization of athletics.

Corporatization of Management: Higher education in the US has always had a strongly corporate structure with Boards and authority located outside the institution (Kerr, 1994). For over a century, it has had strong ties to industry, for example. And an often forgotten fact, faculty have more power in governance and management during the twentieth century than in any previous time-period (Barrow, 1990; Kerr, 1994; Lucas, 1994). The recent assertion of corporate governance began the 1970s when critics described shared governance as problematic since faculty were too self-interested to make decisions for the overall good of the institution, particularly when it came to program reduction (Gumport, 1993; Mortimer & McConnell, 1979).

In the 1980s, a corporate revolution hit higher education (Bessant, 1988; Dunn, 1987; Giroux, 1999; Gumport 1993; Marginson, 2000; Slaughter, 1993). Activist trustees took more control over institutional governance and in some cases circumvented traditional shared governance structures (Giroux, 1999; Gumport, 1993 & 2000; Kerr, 1994; Kolodny, 1998). Several studies demonstrate that in the past twenty years, decision-making has become increasingly centralized (Boards and Presidents), issues are opened up selectively for broader consideration, and that less consultation takes place, especially around strategic directions such as for-profit activities and distance education (Bessant, 1989; Currie, 1998; Gumport, 1993 & 2000; Mingle, 2000). As Gumport (1993) described in her study of program reduction “higher education administrators’ (language) was replete with vivid metaphors that underscored the necessity of consolidation and centralized decision making” (p 289).

Additionally, senior administrators are seen as Chief Executive Officers tasked with unilaterally reinventing and restructuring (Marginson, 2000). In his study of corporatization in Australian higher education, Marginson (2000) noted: “over and over again, it became apparent that those in positions of greatest influence in the universities were often fixated on simplistic norms of good management. There was a loss of the sense of the distinctive character of universities, a forgetting of what it is that they do, and what makes them different from other institutions, and an undue faith in generic organizational models” (p. 33).

Studies document that corporate language and practices have replaced traditional academic administration in which educational values such as truth, equity, autonomy, etc. and mission are central to decision-making (Daalder, 1985; Gumport, 2000; Rollins, 1989). Instead, senior administrators have shifted focus from mission and quality to competitiveness, efficiency, and cost effectiveness, which are the over-riding criteria in decision-making (Daalder, 1985; Gumport, 1993). This shift in language and values has translated into many new approaches such as outsourcing, restructuring, and responsibility centered budgeting. Outsourcing university jobs and services to private companies has become common (Kolodny, 1998; Van der Werf, 1999). In some instances, this practice has been successful, for example with bookstores or food services. In others, the result has been disastrous, such as with residence halls or facilities where the service was too close to the learning mission of the institution and jeopardized core goals of the institution (Gumport, 2000; Van der Wef, 1999). The same critique has been directed at responsibility centered budgeting and user fees (students or a division pay to use a campus service), in some circumstances these policies make sense, but in many instances it inequitably affects a particular group of students, department or program (Daalder, 1985; Kolodny, 1998).

The latest evidence of the corporatization of administration is the move to entrepreneurialism: academic leaders provide faculty with incentives to treat their teaching, research and service as commodities to be sold, making profits for the institution thereby reducing the institution’s responsibility for faculty salaries (Clark, 1999; Rhoades & Smart, 1996; Marginson, & Considine, 2000). Thus, tenure track faculty keep their status by raising money to pay their own salaries. Furthermore, institutions are investors and equity holders in faculty members start-up companies, developers of commercial products, and sell the rights of employees’ activities and knowledge (Rhoades & Slaughter, 1997)

Although large class size has been considered a problem for years, corporate cost effectiveness reinforces the trend toward larger classes and more impersonal experiences for students (Giroux, 1999; Marginson, 2000). In addition, distance education has grown within the more corporate administration in the belief that larger numbers of students can be taught inexpensively (although at this point it has not reduced costs) (Giroux, 1999). Marginson notes how: “the deployment of cost effective instructional and delivery technologies, often by staff rather than faculty, is creating a teaching practice separate from the teaching practices (found legitimate) by the disciplines” (p. 34, 2000).

Privatization and Commercialization of Research: Another example of the impact of the industrial model is the trend toward privatization and commercialization of research. Within the global economy, research findings that are not patented by industry benefit the entire global community (Bok, 1982). Economic rationalists argue that countries will suffer economically if they do not commodify and privatize discoveries to protect their own interests (Brown & Schubert, 2000; Currie & Newson, 1998). Corporations and states have sought to privatize and commodify research as intellectual property rather than a contribution to the international community of scholars. This philosophy and concurrent legislation has moved intellectual property from being a by-product of the quest for knowledge to being the goal of scientific discovery. This is certainly a far cry from traditional notions of research as something to be shared freely for the benefit of the global community.

The Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, legislation that was part of the supply-side economics of the 1980s, allowed universities and small businesses to retain title to inventions developed with federal research and development monies (Slaughter & Rhoades, 1993). The intent of this act was to increase collaboration between universities and commercial interests. Areas such as medical research have become big business with technology transfer offices that sell findings to pharmaceutical or biotechnology firms (Soley, 1995). Several researchers have documented the rise in commercialized research being conducted on campuses, exact figures ranging depending on the institutions studied (Slaughter & Rhoades, 1993; Mingle, 2000). Surveys of industry show substantial increases each year in collaboration with, and funding for university-based research activities. For example, the Association of University Technology Managers reported a tripling of funds in 1997 and 1998 and patents were up 26% (Mingle, 2000).

Commitment Conflict and Disenfranchised Faculty: There is evidence that the industry model that exemplifies the private, economic charter has altered faculty lives. First, the nature the academic labor market has changed dramatically in composition the last 20 years (Anderson, 2002; Rhoades, 1998). Concerns over cost-effectiveness and competition has led to the creation of a cheaper and flexible academic workforce comprised of part-time and contract labor that can easily be laid off in response to changes in the marketplace (Slaughter, 1993). There are now close to 50% part-time faculty in higher education institutions compared to approximately 20% two decades ago and the number of contract faculty has risen from almost 0% to over 20% (Anderson, 2002; Rhoades, 1998). In the past two decades money for faculty salaries declined while the number of administrative staff rose (Leslie & Rhoades, 1995). This rise is partly due to staffing for research collaboratives and regulatory offices that are for private and less mission driven activities.

Faculty hires are now concentrated in the applied fields, science, and those aligned with growth in the labor market rather than the traditional, liberal arts areas. Faculty engaged in science with commercial applications are compensated more highly than other academic members of staff (Slaughter, 1993). In addition, faculty are being rewarded for and encouraged to seek external funding from consulting and research, so that the institution does not have to pay their salaries (Slaughter, 1985 & 1998). Slaughter concludes from her studies that: “managers expect faculty to train students for ‘high tech, high cost, high return’ jobs, secure more and more research monies, and serve the public by linking research to industrial revitalization” (p. 41, 1985). Diverting time, thought, and energy away from teaching and basic research has been labeled commitment conflict (Fairweather, 1996). Corporate managers have reinforced commitment conflict in the last fifteen years by increasing funding for research and reducing expenditure on instruction (Fairweather, 1996; Leslie & Slaughter, 1997).

Vocationalized Curriculum: One well-documented change in university function that reflects the economic/private charter is a more vocationalized curriculum. There has been a shift in resources and emphasis away from a general or liberal arts education toward disciplines or fields that serve or are closely related to fields such as engineering, computer science, and management (Gumport, 1993; Slaughter, 1993). This shift has been occurring for over a century and increased dramatically from 1950s-1970s through government support of the sciences; however, it intensified in the last two decades. Gumport (1993, 2000) and Slaughter (1993) studied state and institutional decision-making patterns around allocation of resources and demonstrated a national pattern – significantly more resources were provided for areas such as business or engineering at the expense of humanities/classics, fine arts, education or foreign languages. During economically challenging times, specifically in the 1980s, higher education cut humanities and non-vocational social science programs disproportionately to other programs. Moreover, Slaughter (1993) found that fields aligned with the marketplace have much larger faculties (there are many more job opportunities) that are paid considerably higher salaries, which also has an impact on faculty work life.

In addition, the education available to students is increasingly vocational and focused more on training or information based delivery rather than developing higher order intellectual skills (Giroux, 1999; Slaughter, 1993). Vocational and market oriented programs often favor distance education that can be offered more efficiently (Giroux, 1999). Yet, distance education also tends to stress information delivery over critical thinking. Fostering wisdom and higher order thinking, not just memorization of information, has been a hallmark of higher education (Giroux, 1999).

Marketization of Athletics: Although sports have long been commercialized in the United States, this escalated in the 1980s (Delany, 1997). Athletics is an example of an area that has become so dominated by economic gain that it may never be able to incorporate educational values again. It is this area that might be instructive in dialogues about the public good of higher education because it illustrates what happens when educational values and practices are compromised by market/corporate approach.

With funds from states shrinking in the 1980s, university administrators, primarily at Division I schools, sought private sector revenues to support sports activities on campuses through advertising, licensing, sponsorships and television rather than decrease numbers of programs offered (Delany, 1997; Thelin & Wiseman, 1990). Given the growing costs of scholarships, salaries, and insurance, very few Division I programs can now be self-sufficient. So, the questions are whether to have such teams and, if the campus does, then how to balance private investment with the university’s public obligations (Hart-Nibbirg, 1986). Several concerns have emerged including the influence of television, the social responsibility of higher education related to corporate relationships, and the types of relationships sponsoring companies have with other parties. For example, how prominent should alcohol companies be in collegiate arenas and on broadcasts of college events? This is one area where people acknowledge that the public good has been compromised.

Costs And Benefits

Another critical area where information is needed to guide policymakers’ and leaders’ discussions is the affect that this industrial model and new charter has had on higher education and society. This is the most important area to obtain information in order to evaluate policy from a utilitarian perspective. This area has proven more challenging to research and provide evidence. Some difficulties in obtaining information are described in this section. In addition, the costs have been studied empirically more than the benefits.

Corporatization of Management: Studies of corporate practices applied to higher education illustrate that they have, generally, had no positive affect on creating change, increasing efficiency or cost effectiveness, or creating effectiveness, the goals creators of these strategies profess (Birnbaum, 2000; Dunn, 1987; Marginson, & Considine, 2000). Supporters of the corporate approach suggest that the cost reduction achieved by their strategies will help facilitate greater access to higher education. Yet, these claims are unfounded at present. A few strategies may show some promise – total quality management or outsourcing--which can work in limited sets of situations, but too often those who adopt these approaches use them unilaterally, negatively affecting the institution. The detrimental affects of corporatized medical centers, a little further down this road, include the turn toward applied research, the move away from professional or experts having input on organizational decision, the move toward business ethics, timelines as key accomplishments, and accountability measures unrelated healthcare or education (Dunn, 1987).

Specific corporate strategies have also been studied. Outsourcing leads to a decline in staff and faulty motivation (Currie & Newson, 1998; Marginson, & Considine, 2000). Downsizing and restructuring without input from faculty, staff or students is now commonplace yet, studies demonstrate that program reduction or restructuring is best implemented with input from the academic community (Eckel, 2000). Research suggests that many trustees do not have the educational expertise to make sound decisions and institutions are suffering from choices that negatively affect the teaching and learning environment (Currie, 1998; Kerr, 1994; Marginson, & Considine, 2000). Within this corporatized environment, presidential leadership has also been altered. Presidents spend the majority of their time fundraising and developing entrepreneurial activities; their previous role as intellectual and moral leaders for their communities and for the nation has waned (Kennedy, 1997; Kerr, 1994; Kolodny, 1998).

In summary, the threat to the public good from corporate approaches noted by critics is confirmed by evidence and includes: loss of societal leadership from college presidents and other educators; lack of democratic governance which aids in implementation of policy; less informed governance decisions; decreased commitment and motivation from staff, and further denigration of teaching and learning environments.

Privatization and Commercialization of Research: The following costs have been documented as outcomes of the move toward commercial research (Business-Higher Education Forum, 2001; Cichy, 1990; Fairweather, 1996; Mangan, 1999; Moynihan, 1998):

  • increases in applied research
  • a decline in basic research
  • a reduction in the importance of teaching on many campuses
  • conflicts of interest such as faculty having financial interests in their research which has affected the integrity of scholarship
  • loss of community intellectual property
  • a shift in graduate student research foci to more applied topics with marketable orientations.

Several studies have identified a relationship between the commercialization of research and a move away from teaching and documented the loss of community intellectual property (Fairweather, 1996; Slaughter & Rhoades,1993). At the same time, more limited research has been conducted on some topics or they are considered unresearchable because it is difficult to understand the exact nature of the problem. For example, studies on faculty research agendas have mixed findings on the exact magnitude of the decline in basic research (Business-Higher Education Forum, 2001; Mingle, 2000). Although Soley (1995) documents more cases of conflicts of interest in faculty research, the magnitude of the problem is unknown as such instances only come to light if people are caught. Other, more disturbing, problems that have emerged: findings are kept secret or research results are interpreted in a way that will reflect favorably on the sponsor (Business-Higher Education Forum, 2001; Cichy, 1990). Other studies demonstrate that university-industry partnerships have led some campuses to adopt more corporate values (such as being profit driven) that violate educational values and mission (such as community, equality, or justice) (Cichy, 1990; Dunn, 1987; Fairweather, 1996; Mangan, 1987 & 1999; Tierney, 1998). Many campus leaders now acknowledge that the move to commercialized research has compromised the traditional role of universities as arbiters of knowledge and guarantors of objectivity in the public interest (Business-Higher Education Forum, 2001; Cichy, 1995; Mingle, 2000).

Advancement of knowledge can be further compromised since disciplines that do not benefit the market are being dramatically underfunded within institutions and receive fewer external grants (Gumport, 1993; Slaughter, 1993). Also, corporate funders and government provide less support for research on general topics that have neither immediate results nor serve commercial interests (Bok, 1982; Soley, 1995). So areas such as poverty, education, adult literacy, and the like, receive minimal resources and attention. Without a constant and substantial flow of funds, critics hypothesize that good scholars and students will not be attracted to these fields and intellectual progress will inhibited (Soley, 1995).

The compromises to the public good from the commercialization of research are quite extensive. But there are several benefits as well. It should be noted that some argue that technology transfer and the privatization of research serves the public good by contributing to local and regional economic development, bringing companies to new areas to partner with universities, for example (Anderson & Louis, 1989; Baldwin & Krosteng, 1995; Business Higher Education Forum, 1999). Corporations draw on university expertise, gain necessary employee training, and provide growth opportunities for employees who teach at universities (Business-Higher Education Forum, 2001; Inayatullah & Gidley, 2000). Corporations provide students, additional funding, facilities that allow universities to reduce their expenditures, and corporate faculty to serve as adjuncts for universities. Also, others claim that the faculty commitment conflict and move away from basic research was already occurring before research was commercialized (Fairweather, 1996).

Commitment Conflict and Disenfranchised Faculty: The public good has been affected in several ways by these changes. The impact of the growth in part-time and contract faculty has been less student advising, limited student-faculty contact (known to be one of the most important predictors of learning among students), decreased involvement in campus governance, among other outcomes (Anderson, 2002; Baldwin & Krosteng, 1995; Currie, 1998; Giroux, 1999, Kerr, 1994, Marginson, 2000). Slaughter (1993 & 1998) notes that the growth in fields aligned with the market is particularly disturbing since the social sciences and humanities have much larger numbers of women and students of color, so these groups are disproportionately affected by re-deploying faculty. It has been suggested that this alteration in the composition in faculty (away from the social sciences and humanities) and change in role (to seek external support for their positions) has decreased the role of the faculty as social critic. There are fewer social scientists and they no longer engage in general critiques of society; instead, they are encouraged to develop consulting practices for corporations and industry (Altbach, Gumport and Johnstone, 2001; Giroux, 1999; Newson and Currie, 1998). Fairweather (1996) studied disastrous cases of leaders who choose to pursue corporate partnerships and research alliances with other institutions, rather than focus on teaching as a way to contribute to the economic goals of higher education. In addition to being diverted from teaching, Rhoades shows that faculty have decreased influence and control over curriculum—traditionally one of their main functions, as administrators focus on building programs that serve the market (1998).

The many changes in faculty contracts, terms of employment, involvement in institutional governance, alteration of load, and the like, have led to unionization among many faculty, a trend likely to continue in the coming years (Fairweather, 1996; McCollow & Lingard, 1996; Rhoades, 1998). Faculty unionization is only problematic in that it can often make input to governance difficult since it is considered outside the purview of their collective bargaining contracts. Because faculty input is necessary for sound institutional judgments, this trend could portend trouble for institutions.

The effects of the changes in faculty work are serious: loss of faculty within key areas to conduct research and within the realm of governance, a move away from teaching as a priority, decline in public service, slowing growth of women and minority faculty, and minimized faculty role as social critic. Yet, there are benefits to the public good from these changes as well. Some have argued that fields such as computer science, that needed to grow to meet student interest and demand, would have remained too small if curricular decisions remained solely in the hands of faculty (Business Higher Education Forum, 2001). Others note that new fields or courses of study could not have emerged if faculty tenure lines were not altered so that faculty could be more flexibly redeployed. Essentially, student, parent, and community interests would not have been served and the public good compromised had changes in the faculty role not been made over the last twenty years (Inayatullah & Gidely, 2000). Admittedly, this is a hypothetical argument as we do not know what would have happened if the nature of the faculty working conditions had not changed.

Vocationalized Curriculum and Weakened Teaching: This shift in the curriculum and teaching affects the social good and the traditional charter between higher education and society. First, the humanities and non-applied social science fields as well as holistic and critical thinking pedagogies have been demonstrated to be essential for citizenship education and the education of leaders (Erlich, 2000). Most agree that a quality education should prepare students for public life, not just for a career (Slaughter, 1993). This has been a key element of higher education’s contribution to the public good. Broadly educated individuals vote and are involved with political organizations (citizenship), join community organizations and volunteer their time (community development), and are healthier (reduced medical costs for society) (Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991). Second, learning suffers. During the last twenty years, the academy has tried to overcome lecture driven pedagogies, which have proven ineffective for student learning; yet corporate management appears to promote lecture methods due to cost effectiveness (Currie & Newson, 1998). In addition, hundreds of studies about college student development demonstrate the benefits of students developing multi-disciplinary knowledge (Pacarella & Terenzini, 1991). Students receiving vocationally oriented curriculum are much less likely to have exposure to a variety of disciplines. Third, preservation of knowledge is compromised when certain fields are underfunded or closed. Fourth, advancement of knowledge is threatened since fewer disciplines can be brought to bear on any problem. Many studies have shown that complex problems such as poverty are best addressed through multiple disciplines (Bok, 1982). At a time when the scientific community realizes the value of bringing more disciplines and new ways of thinking to challenging social dilemmas, there are fewer faculty in these programs to conduct research and their numbers are continuing to shrink (Marginson, 2000). These are just a few of the ways that the public good appears to be undermined by the industrial model.

But, there are benefits to the changes in the curriculum that need to also be acknowledged. As noted, in the last section on faculty roles, critics claim that fields of study in demand by students would not have been available if administrators had not taken exercised their prerogative to make curricular decisions and redeploy resources to more popular fields. The growth of vocational fields and distance learning has provided access to greater numbers of individuals to higher education (Business Higher Education Forum, 2000; Lynton & Elman, 1987; Mingle, 2000). Although these programs may redistribute resources away from fields that have served traditional social roles such as developing citizens or an appreciation for the arts, having training in an area that can enhance your life choices and economic chances is an important first step (Brint & Karabel, 1989).

Commercialization of Athletics: Some commentators suggest that the problem is so severe that campus should consider cutting big time athletics altogether. Murray Sperber (2000) connects the severe rise in binge drinking, alcohol related deaths, decline in studying, rise in gambling and cheating, and degradation of undergraduate education (less of an emphasis on rigorous coursework and course taking, focus on sports and entertainment over education) with schools that have Division I teams. There are a host of studies that identify problems that have emerged from the commercialization of athletics (Byers & Hammer, 1995; Duderstadt, 2000; Friday & Hesburgh, 1993; Sperber, 1990; Telander, 1989). For student athletes in college football and basketball, learning is too often only important as it relates to staying eligible to play (Byers & Hammer, 1995). Corruption is hypothesized to be commonplace (this is difficult to study empirically as people will not admit this behavior). In order to entice the best players to campus, bribes and illegal gifts are routinely offered (Sperber, 1990; Sperber 2000). At times sponsors make demands to be the sole proprietors on campus, limiting student and consumer choices (Duderstadt, 2000). Recently, students have protested against the athletic equipment contracts with corporations that rely on sweatshops and exploitative labor. The ethical problems range from issues that alter student lives to those that merely inconvenience, but all are violations of core academic values of justice, learning, and community. The social good is compromised as students become involved in drinking, gambling, and cheating; see corruption as their role model for institutional behavior; observe learning as secondary to entertainment, and see private and economic gain over social and public goals (Duderstadt, 2000; Sperber, 2000).

Some benefits have also been noted including greater public support for higher education as individuals have the opportunity to be provided local entertainment, increased public image and awareness of certain campuses so that members of the community come to use the library or museum in the future (Duderstadt, 2000). There is greater awareness of the campus as a community resource and public good.


In order to frame policy and leadership discussions, this paper has considered the existence and magnitude of the problem, costs and benefits. These policy concerns are analyzed based on the evidence and literature presented in this article. I will also review one trend that emerged across these three policy areas: the commonalities between positions -- public/social and private/individual, which might be an important starting point for discussions about the charter between higher education and society. This theme mirrors the changes in conceptualizing the public good (Powell & Clemens, 1998; Salamon, 2002) noted in the section on philosophies. Although this information on commonalities is helpful to policymakers and leaders from a variety of philosophical stances, it will be particularly helpful for those adopting a utilitarian approach.

In reference to the existence and magnitude of the problem, there is evidence to support the view that some sectors of higher education have become industrialized. Schools with Division I athletic teams are an example of institutions where this shift can be demonstrated. The management and governance of large institutions also illustrates an industrial model, in which faculty labor and curriculum are focused more on commercial goals and ends. Since most research has been conducted at large research universities and comprehensive institutions it is difficult to generalize to other sectors. However, there is data, for example, that community colleges tend to have very strongly corporatized management and governance (Margison, 2000; Mortimer & McConnell, 1979). This analysis of trends in administration, governance, curriculum, research, faculty roles, and athletics suggests that the industrial model is as pervasive as social critics have suggested. Certain aspects of campus operations appear to be affected to a greater degree, for example, athletics, and research within some disciplines or fields. Policymaking can be targeted at pockets of campuses where the industrial model is much more pervasive. More and more, the public good is being aligned with key features of neoliberalism—individualism, private enterprise, economic goals and standards of efficiency and effectiveness—as opposed to traditional notions of communitarian and collective benefits for society as a whole. Likewise, the charter has moved from public investment and inter-relationship to incentives to privatize, marketize, and a less mutual or interconnected relationship between higher education and society. Institutional goals are becoming more aligned with individual consumers rather than societal goals.

For several reasons it is harder to generalize based on research that shows us how this industrial model impacts on the public good and traditional charter. First, many of the effects are hypothesized (or suggested) rather than empirically documented. Some of the areas, such as corruption in research or athletics, are difficult to study since people are unlikely to be forthcoming with information. The evidence in these areas tends to be more journalistic and investigative, for example, Soley, 1995. Fewer studies have looked at the benefits of commercialization and privatization, making the evidence slanted toward costs. A fairly bleak picture of the costs can be documented empirically: the decline of shared governance, loss of faculty and administrative leadership in external affairs, the shift from basic research, the deterioration of certain fields of study, increased commitment conflict among faculty, rise in cheating and binge drinking among students, less diverse faculty, increased unionization, loss of community intellectual property, to name a few. Many of these trends are, of course, affected by other factors and conditions, but each appears related to the industrial model.

Even though there are problems with the research on the effects of the industrial model on the public good and traditional charter, it is clear that there little evidence to date supports the benefits this model. Although proponents of the industrial model claim that it saves money, expenses and tuition have risen during the period that this model has been in place. In the late 1990s, a Commission on the rising cost of higher education was created by the Department of Education. The Commission (1998) found that in the 20 years between 1976 and 1996, the average tuition at public universities increased at a rate well above inflation from $642 to $3,151 and the average tuition at private universities increased from $2,881 to $15,581. Tuitions at public two-year colleges, the least expensive of all types of institutions, increased from an average of $245 to $1,245 during this period. Simultaneously, federal policy shifted the burden for paying for college to students and their families by awarding fewer and smaller Pell Grants and increasing the available loans. Furthermore, research on corporatized management has found that its goals of efficiency, effectiveness, or cost savings (Birnbaum, 2000) have yet to be met. The commercialization of research does stimulate regional economic development, an important public good (Business Higher Education Forum, 2001). Yet, as Fairweather (1996) reminds us, the most important way that higher education can contribute to economic development and remain mission centered is through the teaching and learning of students that join the workforce. The evidence supports that much of the activity – be it sports entertainment or the development of patents – supported by the industrial model is not mission centered, which might be important to policy discussions.

On the other hand, not all aspects of the industrial model or the move toward private and economic goals are necessarily problematic. Some, in fact, are positive. The corporate management style adopted within the industrial model has emphasized the importance of the consumer and higher education has become more responsive to student’s needs for services such as counseling or later hours for adult students (Rhoades, 1987). Some have suggested that access has been increased in the move toward a more marketized system of higher education, which has created greater numbers of institutions that are less selective (Kerr, 1994). Commercial research has brought needed revenue, equipment, and expertise to campuses. Some faculty prefer having the option of part-time and contract employment. The research findings are mixed about the way these trends affect the public good in some areas. Although the literature confirms social critics’ fears of serious problems, it also highlights the industrial model’s contribution to the public good in new ways, namely, access, economic development or entertainment. Evaluating the existing evidence presented from a utilitarian perspective which focuses on consequences, the public good appears to be weakened by the industrial model, the charter between higher education and society benefits from a social orientation (or at least mixed orientation both social and individual) rather than a purely or mostly individual approach. The industrial and traditional, communitarian models may need to be blended or a new model should be developed.

The cumulative evidence suggests that we do not know enough about the overall costs and benefits, especially when examining these issues in total. More research is needed that simultaneously examines costs and benefits; most research tends to focus on one or the other, making it difficult for educational leaders who need to examine both sides of the issue to obtain a balanced picture.

Educational leaders have some evidence about costs and benefits, even if the data are incomplete. Decisions will need to be made based on existing evidence; the hard work ahead is for leaders to use their wisdom and experience to examine these issues together with the overall institution or system in mind. How detrimental is faculty commitment conflict to the teaching and learning environment? Maybe cost/benefit analysis supports the view that students learn a great deal from informal educational processes (co-curricular and extra-curricular activities) and that the cost of having a less engaged faculty member is actually not that great. Perhaps the gain to individual institutions from patents significantly improves their ability to provide scholarships, purchase new books for the library and upgrade technology. Does the desire for cost effectiveness that drives the industrial model and the private, economic charter outweigh the loss of faculty leadership or less-marketable fields of study? Many of these costs and benefits are trade-offs and the results of which are difficult to assess empirically. These are issues that policymakers and leaders should engage with, which is why I have ended the paper with a set of questions drawn from this analysis to guide discussions.

Discussions about commercialization, privatization, and corporatization in higher education are generally polarized: many believe the drift toward privatization must be stopped; others embrace and the industrial model with relish. The empirical research presents a picture of “gentle” concern, but several scholars in articles and books, express deep concern about the future higher education if current trends are not checked. In an analysis almost a decade old, Zemsky (1993) concluded that the benefits (additional funds to higher education; contributions to economic growth; engendering greater public support in terms of job creation) outweighed the disadvantages. On the contrary, the evidence presented in this article suggests that there are a series of costs that outweigh the existing known benefits. Yet, without more study of benefits and the relation of cost to benefits, no definitive statements can de made, one way or the other. This paper shows that policymakers’ need to focus their attention on existing problems. The fears of some social critics that institutions will lose leadership development or service, and research outputs will decline are not supported by the evidence. However, as higher education institutions become more corporate and commercial in their orientation to maximize these benefits, they will have to address important ethical problems relating to the sector’s social and public benefits to ensure that they are not lost. Understanding these changes is critical in the process that would generate a new vision for higher education—one that acknowledges the need for a balance between the demands of market forces and the public good.

Industrial models of higher education governance do not necessarily compromise the social/public charter. Many of the principles of the public good are not violated by the industrial model. For example, the corporate model has placed even greater focus on supporting local and regional communities by working with other social institutions such as government, business or healthcare in order to foster their missions; and broadening access to higher education to ensure a diverse democracy. Over the years, new definitions of the public good have emerged, such as entertaining the public through athletics or economic development through commercialized research centers. Furthermore, supporting economic and private goals does not have to come at the expensive of social/public roles. Students, for example, may develop as leaders because they were involved in a research project that would not have been funded had there not been a partnership with a local business. This argument can also be reversed: public goods can yield private benefits. As noted earlier, providing students with training relevant to the workplace has enormous private benefits.

Some commentators suggest commonalities between the economic/private and social/public charter that could provide the impetus for leadership/policy dialogues, namely, the importance of teaching, access, activist leadership, connection to the community, and solving societal problems (Duderstadt, 2000; Fairweather, 1996; Mingle, 2000; Powell & Clemens, 1998; Salamon, 2002; TERI, 1998). Analysts that contrast the corporate model with the traditional social charter agree that these five areas are currently central to the public good. Often issues that appear to be in conflict, such as faculty workload, are instead complimentary, and there is agreement between those advocating private/economic benefits and those concerned with the public, social good. As Fairweather (1996) notes, many seemingly conflicting ideas can be brought together with careful analysis. He describes the move toward income-generating activities and the related decline in teaching as a priority. Conflict has arisen as more faculty are becoming entrepreneurs in research, but neglecting teaching. Yet, faculty involvement in teaching can be seen as the greatest lever for economic development (rather than involvement in research). Fairweather notes that: “the public needs to be aware that the major contribution of higher education to the economy is in human development: education and training of youth and adults. This educating includes the encouragement of critical thinking and problem solving, both crucial to the long-term economic survival of the nation” (emphasis added) (p. 6, 1996).

At the beginning of this article, I noted that neoliberal philosophy was one of the main forces driving the move away from the traditional charter between higher education and society that was built on a communitarian philosophy of the public good. The research reviewed in this article, shows the many ways in which the public good has been redefined to mean privatization and commercialization of public institutions, following neoliberal philosophy. Educational leaders and policymakers could become mired in a debate about competing philosophies. Yet, recent discussions of the public good have conceptualized public and private interests as more congruent and compatible (Clemmen & Powell, 1998; Salamon, 2002). The shift toward privatization and commercialization is not necessarily considered problematic; instead, policymakers examine the costs and benefits of decisions. The information presented in this article provides policymakers with a place to begin such a utilitarian approach to policymaking.


The analysis presented in this article suggests that the industrial model is pervasive, it is affecting the traditional social and public purposes of higher education, that the costs appear to outweigh the benefits, and that the charter can be significantly affected by policymaking by state and institutional leaders. A discussion about the charter and public good are long overdue and it is time to develop a new vision of higher education’s mission and values. The following types of questions need attention by leaders:

1. To what degree should higher education adapt to market forces and which historic functions and longer-term public interests should it retain? How can we create a charter for higher education that honors economic, social, private and public goods?

2. To what degree should higher education become private and what would be the impact of this shift? Is public higher education part of the state or is it independent? What type of autonomy or regulation should be exerted?

3. How can we reconcile market-oriented values with traditional academic values? For example, academic freedom, access and equity, excellence and integrity, and dedication to inquiry are important to meet the public mission. Which values should be upheld and reinforced as higher education partners with other groups representing different value systems? How can they be maintained?

4. How can we think about private and public in complex ways that still maintain the social role of higher education? It is important not to dichotomize public and private or social and economic interests. Studies illustrate how private goods benefit the public such as higher salaries and stability of employment, improved health of college graduates, and better consumer decision-making among college graduates and public goods have private benefits such as educated workforce for business and industry, research facilities for companies, and faculty expertise for corporate work (TERI, 1998).

In closing, there are some who will argue that the service role (whether as commercially or publicly defined) itself is problematic and that the university should return to being an ivory tower, in which pure research is emphasized, government and private support for research diminished so that teaching can become more prominent again, and in which service is defined as internal governance (Sommer, 1995). [3] Conversely, some commentators herald the triumph of markets and management and the metaphor of higher education as an industry (Zemsky, 1993). Marketers believe this is the only way for higher education to remain a central enterprise within the new world order and to ensure the funds needed to maintain world-class status. They remind us that higher education in the United States has always been market driven and this is what has facilitated the innovations that make it the premiere higher education system in the world. In addition, they note that higher education has long been diverted from the teaching mission toward research and vocationalism has been a trend since the early 1830s. Yet, market forces have never been allowed to operate unfettered. The history of higher education reflects an on-going tension and debate over the role of markets and the way higher education will serve society. Policymakers and educational leaders are called to address these myriad issues that challenge higher education’s role in the public good.


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[1] There are other beliefs such as republicanism, from political science, that have also been used to examine the public good. But, these three philosophies capture the main debates and ideas expressed over the past several hundred years.

[2] Utilitarianism has a long history and many people trace its emergence within Confucian philosophy in 500 B.C. I am focusing on describing the more recent emergences in the United States.

[3] This book provides an extensive overview and discussion of the problems posed by a social and public role of higher education as it has evolved, especially focused on the last sixty years.