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Why Commercialisation is problematic for Teaching, Research and Equality in Higher Education. Kathleen Lynch, UCD Equality Studies Centre, School of Social Justice www.ucd.ie/esc

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why commercialisation is problematic for teaching research and equality in higher education

Why Commercialisation is problematic for Teaching, Research and Equality in Higher Education

Kathleen Lynch,

UCD Equality Studies Centre,

School of Social Justice


Presentation to the Commercialisation in Irish Education Conference, School of Education, Trinity College Dublin and the Campaign for Commercial-Free Education,

Saturday November 17th 2007

restructuring from what to where
Restructuring from what to where?
  • Education is seen as the new target for investors –once it is privatised (GATS agreement, EU Services Directive)
    • Reorganisation of power and control in higher education is presented as a simple Technical Solution to technical problems to improve ‘efficiencies’
      • There is an institutionalising of market values by technical processes e.g. the creation of ‘internal markets’ in universities – each department competes with the other for funding
      • Hidden hand of the market is masquerading as neutral through the discourses of ‘restructuring’
    • The Operational Focus masks the way the University is being commercialized (albeit packaged in the development discourses of ‘science’ ‘excellence’ ‘world class universities’); bureaucratic accounting exercises controls through counting, monitoring and evaluations that are invisible in the public sphere
    • Pragmatic focus to funding especially for research:
      • Growing elision of the differences between scholarship, and knowledge generated for commercial or related purposes - failure to recognise the conflict of between public interest values and commercial values in research
Problems with Markets in Education:Limiting access to higher education + limiting scope for working in non-lucrative forms of employment
  • In a commercially-driven system improving access for non-traditional entrants is not a priority as there is nothing intrinsic to the market model of higher education that guarantees education as a right; education becomes a purchasable service.
  • Empirical evidence suggests that having education markets polarises intakes and reinforces social segregation (Archer, L. et al. (2001) Higher Education and Social Class; and Ball, S. (2003) Class Strategies and the Education Markets. Hugh Lauder et al., (1999) Trading in Futures: why markets in education don’t work.).
  • Fees in private US universities are averaging $35,000 - $45,000 per annum- huge debts incurred by students so they only want to work in fields where they can ‘get a return’ to pay debts – negative impact of this on public service recruitment, community and voluntary sector employment
why commercialisation is problematic for equality of access participation and outcomes
Why Commercialisation is problematic for Equality of Access, Participation and Outcomes
  • The State is an in-eliminable agent in matters of justice: only the state can guarantee to individual persons the right to be educated.
    • If the state absolves itself of the responsibility to educate, rights become more contingent; in a commercial system the right to education will be contingent on the ability to pay.
  • Democratic Accountability must be distinguished from Market Accountability
      • In a democratically accountable system, each individual has an equal right engagement
      • In a market-led system accountability will be contingent on market capacity or resources
  • As higher education is almost becoming a prerequisite for participation in the so-called knowledge economy – access to higher education is no longer a matter of choice but an economic necessity
      • The absence of an individual right to higher education would mean families with limited resources would have to ‘select’ who to send to college.
why education for profit is problematic for democracy closing down of dissent
Why Education for Profit is problematic for Democracy: Closing down of Dissent
  • Primary function of Higher Education is to serve the Public Interest (in the pluralistic sense) – it should be the watchdog for the free interchange of knowledge and ideas and the public guardian of the right to dissent
      • It cannot focus on Public Interest Values if it is dependent on private funding for research and teaching which may be cut off due to dissent
      • If Universities become dependent on private (corporate) finance, they face huge conflicts of interest -public interest goals are often in conflict with the self-interested goals of profit-making bodies –e.g. in relation to patenting of new products/ideas
  • Education ‘markets’ are driven by competitive advantage and this encourages privatisation of academic voices and scholarship –
    • Why share research if one wants one’s own university or oneself to profit from one’s own scholarship? Why dissent from the reigning intellectual or political orthodoxies if it upsets your employment or career prospects?
impact of commercialisation on research
Impact of Commercialisation on research
  • Strong incentive to undertake commercially-oriented research in a commercially driven system;
      • The work of Risa Lieberwitz, (2004) Professor of Labour Law, Cornell University, shows that an estimated 50% of life sciences faculty members in the US are consultants to industry and this limits their freedom to be critical of their ‘industrial funders’
  • Why should universities/higher education bodies ever exist as research institutions if their work is the synonymous with the interests of private business?
  • At present the cost of basic research is being borne in greater part by the taxpayers; how much of research funding to the natural sciences in Irish universities is government funding? What % of university funding in the sciences (‘natural sciences) is from the private sector?
    • With commercialisation, research findings and research products are increasingly patented (privately owned, licensed and sold) but if the State has paid for their production why are they privatised? Who benefits?
impact of commercialisation on teaching and what is taught censorship of critical thought
Impact of Commercialisation on Teaching and What is Taught: Censorship of Critical Thought
  • Markets are driven by concerns for efficiency but education cannot be, because:
    • a) education for work and activities that is not marketable is still vital (e.g. for public service, civil society, arts, care work etc.)
    • b) education of those who will never be producers in market terms is still necessary
  • Critical thought, especially critical discourses and dissent is disabled by commercialisation
    • e.g. closure of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, University of Birmingham in 2002; closure of all Women’ Studies Departments in Belgium since 2000)
  • Disciplines which have a strong tradition of critical discourse and debate are not expanding at the same rate as commercially-driven fields of knowledge.
    • With a small number of exceptions new Professorships and departments in Ireland have been heavily concentrated in the more commercial sectors of science, technology and business.
    • Declining investment in arts, humanities and social sciences – especially in those fields and disciplines that have a record of dissent and critique
the impact of commercialisation on the culture of teaching and education in universities
The impact of commercialisation on the culture of teaching and education in Universities
  • In adopting business models of operation there is:
    • A Move from being centres of learning and scholarship to service-delivery operations with productivity targets – driven by unscientific ‘league tables’ and ‘rankings’
    • A Down-grading of teaching, especially undergraduate teaching
    • A Down-grading of the care of students as it is not measured or measurable
    • Electronic Tagging of Academic Staff -rewarded and promoted primarily for publishing inelectronically measurable publication outlets (journal articles – imposition of the natural science model of value measurement throughout the university sector) – Increased surveillance of all staff
    • No incentive to publish within small countries (Ireland)
    • A penalisation of Staff for publishing reports for statutory, voluntary or other agencies (not counted as scholarly work) – (they do no count for promotion in Human Sciences in UCD for example) and neither do public lectures to non-academic audiences
    • A Closing down of democratic dialogue between the universities and civil society and even the state itself.
new authoritarianism it is my call
New Authoritarianism‘It is my call’
  • ‘It is my call’ – a response from a senior university manager to a query as to why a committee decision was ignored and his personal preferences dictated policy (Comment reported to the committee by a member, May, 2006) (note head of RTE’s comment ‘A Judgement Call’ re ‘balance’ of the Late, Late Show panel, 9/11/2007)
  • Lack of openness and transparency – failure to reply to queries or acts of obfuscation (3 very cordial emails and 2 phone calls elicit no information on key research plans directly impacting on work; September and October, 2007)
  • ‘As College Principal, I am entitled to call whatever meetings I like to discuss College business. Email: 26/1/2007: a response to a query why the decision-making procedures of the College were not adhered to
  • Centralisation of power and the break up of collegiality – profound demoralisation and disrespect for people of equal skill and expertise
league tables and rankings a tool of the market the new iqsim
League Tables and Rankings:a tool of the market ‘The new IQsim’
  • Only measure outputs without assessing inputs systematically – in terms of real resources, time, inherited identities, student needs
    • No league tables assess universities in terms of diversity of intake, especially in terms of openness to traditionally excluded groups- in the US strong disincentive to take students who have low grades (often the most disadvantaged) as it reduces rankings in the US News and World Report Rankings –
      • Growth of Merit-based student aid as opposed to Needs-Based Student Aid (already happening in Ireland with entrants awards)
    • None of these rankings survey student opinion or staff opinion
    • None take account of local missions or national goals
    • The journals that are included for assessing academic citations are overwhelmingly in English, predominantly American and mostly owned and managed by commercial interests
    • Thomson Corporation (that owns and manages the Indices (ISI) used to measure publications outputs), Quacquarelli Symonds, The Times newspaper are all interlocking commercial interests controlling the flow of highly unscientific information about universities but the latter keep citing them if it suits their purposes!!
shanghai jiao tong technological university criteria for ranking of universities 2007
Shanghai Jiao Tong Technological UniversityCriteria for ranking of Universities 2007
  • 5 criteria were used in 2007– This is how they graded the ‘top 500’ Universities: Only published articles are included, all books are excluded
  • ·10% for Nobel laureates among graduates (chemistry, physics, medicine, economics and Fields Medals in maths) 5 subjects only
  • ·20% for Nobel laureates awarded to current staff in above 5 areas
  • ·20% for Articles in two science-related journals Nature and Science
  • ·20% for Highly cited researchers in 21 areas (all 21 subject areas bar one, and part of another, are in science or technology).
  • ·20% for Articles in Science Citation Index-expanded and Social Science Citation Index (many of the prestigious journals in the social sciences are not listed)
  • ·10% for overall academic performance: weighted scores on the above five indices divided by full-time equivalent academic staff members
  • ·Total 100%
shanghai jiao tong method inherent bias against the arts humanities and critical social sciences
Shanghai Jiao Tong method:Inherent bias against the arts, humanities and critical social sciences
  • Shanghai Jiao Tong is a Technological University so why are we evaluating universities by their criteria?
  • 50% of the evaluation is based on Nobel prizes (Medicine, Physics, Chemistry and Economics), Fields medals (Mathematics) and science journals alone
  • Books not included – too difficult –yet in the arts/humanities/social sciences (AHSS) – a variety of studies show at least 50% of publications are in book form
  • Most large universities are mixed disciplinary institutions – ceteris paribus, highly specialised science-related institutions are ranked higher
  • The methodology of the Jiao Tong league table system is at http://ed.sjtu.edu.cn/rank/2006/ARWU2006Methodology.htm#Meth5
  • Authors themselves do not even claim it is objective!
Universities use Unscientific Data to measure their own performance! Times Higher Education so-called ‘World Rankings’
  • Breach of the most basic scientific principle: access to the methodology employed is not available (see the paper by Prof. Simon Marginson*, Professor of Higher Education, University of Melbourne,16th Annual New Zealand, International Education Conference, 8-10th of August, Christchurch, 2007)
    • 40% of grade is based on a ‘peer review exercise’ by Qs – Quacquarelli Symonds – ‘contacted 3,703 academics around the world’ asked to name their top 30 universities in their fields: We have no idea how were these sampled nor how they counted and weighted? *The better the marketing the higher the standing
    • 10% based on graduate 736 ‘international’recruiters’ Who are these?Why these?
    • 20% for staff student ratio: dividing student numbers by staff numbers- ‘staff who have a regular contractual relationship’ Who knows what is counted here in terms of staffing?
    • 20% for citations measured by Thompson Scientific in Philadelphia and divided by staff numbers (only journal articles are counted)
    • 5% for the % of overseas staff; 5% for the % overseas students
    • Total: 100%
german model of university evaluation
German Model of University Evaluation
  • Centre for Higher Education and Development (CHE) and the German Academic Exchange Service (using the publisher Die Zeit) have developed a model of evaluation now used in Switzerland, Austria, Netherlands and Flanders
  • In Germany CHE Surveys 130,000 students and 16,000 staff on student experiences and satisfaction and academic recommendations on good departments in different fields. 36 subjects are covered. It uses other independent data sources to complement the survey but none directly from the universities.
  • It does not rank universities but locates them individually across a range of areas – including teaching, diversity, quality of student experience, mission etc.
  • It avoids the flaws of holistic educational indicators and the inappropriateness of creating inappropriate ordinal scales, and it includes a wide range of disciplines
  • Data is available free of charge on an interactional web-enabled data base; students can create their own ‘rankings’ based on their priorities
  • The normative power of comparison is shifted from the ranking agencies (currently commercial interests) to the student and academic staff who know the universities/colleges
  • Source: Usher, A. and Savino, M 2006, A World of Difference; a global survey of university league tables, accessed November 13th 2007 at http://www.educationalpolicy.org)
academic capitalism at work
Academic Capitalism at work
  • Universities are increasingly legitimating the pursuit of individualised economic self-interest and career interests among staff (new contracts with inflated salaries to selected groups) – no incentive to be collegial and little incentive to teach once one is a senior lecturer or professor
  • Staff and student idealism to work ‘in the service of humanity is diminished when colleges and universities begin to function largely as ferociously competitive business-oriented corporations
why democratic public control of higher education matters in a knowledge economy
Why Democratic Public control of Higher Education Matters in a ‘Knowledge Economy’
  • People have a right to education – Article 24 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 14 (ICESCR)
  • Education is indispensable for realising other rights
  • Education has an intrinsic value for the development of the individual – for the exercise of capabilities, choices and freedoms
  • Education has a care function as well as a development function: this cannot be guaranteed in a privatised system
  • Education enables one to overcome other social disadvantages
  • Education is a Public Good as well as a Personal Good- it enriches cultural, social, political and economic life locally and globally
  • Education credentials play a crucial role in mediating access to other goods, notably employment, culture etc.