Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wannabe U

Gaye Tuchman, Wannabe U: Inside the Corporate University (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009).

This may be the most important assessment of the nature of the corporate university. Tuchman, a well-known sociologist, studies her own institution, the University of Connecticut, although she writes about the institution in anonymous fashion and continues to not confirm that it is UConn. She charts how we have shifted from the university as a public good in the mid-twentieth university to the university as business. Many of the criticisms are familiar – universities are training not educating; accountability, auditing, and reporting have now overwhelmed both faculty and administrators as productivity measures but measures that often do not support fundamental activities such as teaching and research; the university is not a social institution, now it is an industry; branding and marketing consume ever greater amounts of resources (time and money); credentials are the products being sold; decisions are made to get higher rankings, even if it is understood that such rankings are flawed – but Tuchman offers remarkably rich detail and research to back her criticism. This is a book already drawing both praise and criticism, the best kind – one that stimulates debate about where higher education is heading. And it comes pretty close to home. Read it and decide for yourself.

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