The universities and the railroad barons

The coming of “academic capitalism” has been anticipated and praised for years; today it is here. Colleges and universities clamor greedily these days for pharmaceutical patents and ownership chunks of high-tech startups; they boast of being “entrepreneurial”; they have rationalized and outsourced countless aspects of their operations in the search for cash; they fight their workers nearly as ferociously as a nineteenth-century railroad baron; and the richest among them have turned their endowments into in-house hedge funds.’

Thomas Frank’s essay Academy Fight Song is a brilliant dissection of what is happening in profit-driven American universities run on management theory principles. The exorbitant student fees and associated individual debt have not arrived in Ireland yet, though the process has begun in earnest in the UK.

But the realities of life in the academy, with the relentless downgrading of ‘faculty’ by a new breed of technocrats, will ring true for many, and this article serves as a warning of where the Irish university currently is headed.

Frank’s proposed response to the disaster in privatized US third level education is public funding — the direct opposite to the solutions being proposed with increasing volume in the Irish context.

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