Presented by Cheryl Jeffs at 2006
Hawaii International Conference on Education
Category: Student Paper
Doctorate of Education Students, Faculty of Education
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby BC, Canada
Renewal of the Unspoken Compact: Counteracting the Impacts of Globalization on Higher Education
Jeffs, C., Carr, W., MacFadgen, S.L., Paynter, R. & Waterhouse, T. (2005)
In this paper, the impacts of globalization on higher education are explored using a multi-unit analysis of institutional culture, faculty, curriculum, and students. We advance the thesis that unchecked globalization is an appropriating force in higher education having decidedly negative impacts on the public good. It is our contention that safeguards must be instituted in higher education to counteract these negative influences. The positive steps that universities can take are proposed to counterbalance the negative effects of commercialization and to preserve the traditional mission, values, and educational functions of the university. In addition, we submit that vigilance and safeguards are needed to protect the fundamental nature and role of universities with the ultimate aim of protecting the public good.
A review of the literature reveals that increased market force pressures are threatening to change the essential nature and practices of present day universities. Of particular concern are those forces that are pushing higher education away from its traditional commitments to teaching, basic research, student learning and serving the public interest. The causes and risks associated with this shift in focus and activity have centered primarily on the influences of globalization. Globalization theory and its political economic interpretations explain how the rise of global competition has creating conditions that have compromised the “implicit social contract between the citizenry and government” resulting in less funding for social welfare and education functions and more money for building corporate competitiveness (Slaughter & Leslie, 1997, pp. 14, 61). When applied to higher education globalization has influenced the pursuit of private revenues to augment public funding resulting in a dramatic reshaping of undergraduate education.
Three dominant theoretical approaches are used to support the claim that higher education should institute more effective limits on globalization to safeguard the public good. These theorists speak to the notion of higher education existing for purposes which further the public good, variously described as the unspoken compact, the implicit social contract and the social compact. We will be considering these as synonymous terms in constructing our argument. Bok (2003) chronicles the rise in commercial activity during the last quarter century and he raises the alarm that its current size and scope threatens to erode the very foundations of the university. Bok warns that positive steps must be taken to preserve basic academic values in higher education and to safeguard against “excessive commercialization,” especially in the domains of education and research, if universities are to keep commercialization within reasonable bounds (pp. 185-186).
Couturier (2005) advances Bok’s argument by calling for universities to take action to forestall the competitive, market-like forces that are eroding the unspoken compact – the overriding accord governing the relationship between higher education and the public. Couturier outlines how competition is pushing higher education toward an increased focus on institutional self-interest and away from its commitment to serving public needs (pp. 85, 87). The changes in higher education that Couturier highlights include, the blurring of the lines between the missions of public and private institutions; fierce competition amongst institutions for the same prestige, students and funding as the research universities; and increased financial burdens, due to escalating tuition costs, that especially disadvantage low-income students, first-generation students and students of colour (pp. 94-95). Couturier advocates for “renewing the compact” between higher education and the state, as the representative of the public’s interest, to ensure that higher education will continue to serve society in the future (p. 99). And finally, Kempner (1998), in his study of the political economics of educational change in developing countries, provides evidence that there are real consequences for the public good from modernization policies that promote the privatization of education. Kempner asserts that the pursuit of technological advances as the path to economic development, on the basis of human capital theory, does not lead to economic, social and cultural prosperity. He views education not as a commodity to serve predominantly private interests but as a resource to serve all members of society. Kempner calls for the adoption of a more humanist approach to the development of social capital, elaborated as humanist capital theory, for the benefit of the public good and to produce individuals who serve not only the needs of the market but who also attend to government and civil sectors of society (p. 457). The notion of excessive commercialization and the contributions of both the unspoken compact and humanist capital will be used as the theoretical framework for addressing the impacts of globalization on higher education.
The encroaching demands of market-like forces have had well-documented impacts on higher education. These have included the creation of incentives for university faculty to engage in revenue-generating research at the expense of teaching commitments and professional autonomy, as well as changing curriculum to address business and industry demands while undermining liberal learning and student development (Slaughter & Leslie, 1997; Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004). Evidence also suggests that globalization has further marginalized local populations by compromising access for disadvantaged students, while also treating students as economic entities in the rush to compete for lucrative tuition revenue and research grants (Levin, 2005). In general, a strong case can be made that the shift from educational to entrepreneurial interests threatens to erode the traditional mission, values and operating practices of higher education. In this paper, we will examine the specific negative impacts of globalization on institutional culture, faculty, curriculum and students. Effective strategies for counteracting these negative influences will be proposed to keep commercialization within check and to enable universities to serve society in the future.
The quintessential mission and values for higher education were identified in the previous section. While we grapple with the demands and pressures of the twenty-first century, we are aware that the goals of education were originally formulated in a different era. The social, economic and political realities facing today’s educational leaders challenge their resources and ability to balance the needs of society to produce productive citizens with the needs to satisfy the pressures to generate revenue. These realities influenced entire sectors, including higher education, to change, adapt, and become more like business. The issue of how this significant change impacts the fundamental values and culture of these higher education institutions is discussed in this section. Organizational culture is complex, multi-layered and influenced by both external and internal forces. Levin (2001) suggests that cultural change affects the beliefs, norms and values of organizational members and ultimately the actions of all constituents (p. 164).
The move toward higher education acting more like corporations occurred in a relatively short time span. Global forces, primarily economic, began to impact on higher education during the 1980s. The appearance of educational institutions adopting the “student as consumer” philosophy was evident in the 1980s (McMillan & Cheney, 1996, p.2). By the 1990s, these business concepts and language had fully integrated into higher education (Levin, 2001; Wendt, 1994). As a survival mechanism, organizations began to adopt a philosophy of business that permeated all aspects of higher education to include, faculty, students and curriculum. McMillan and Cheney (1996) argue that part of this shift was reasonable to ensure “responsibility, accountability and practical relevance” (p. 2). However, they believe that adopting the corporate enterprise culture has allowed us to stray too far from the original goals of education. Education has become a commodity and the institutions have become vehicles for the buying and selling of products. In this new environment students provide benefits to educational institutions as customers as well as commodities for the marketplace (Levin, 2005, p. 13). These changes in language and the adoption of business metaphors have been well-documented.
The usual terms associated with educational practices and concepts have changed from the “norms related to student learning such as intellectual, moral, social and personal development” to more business-like references, such as “skills development, employability skills, outcomes based curriculum, learner centered, job ready and value added” (Levin, 2001, p. 164). In addition, Wendt (1994) compares the language of the education model to the language of the business model where students are the customers, employees are the sales agents, curriculum is the item being sold and tuition is the fee paid for the item and/or service (p. 34). Giroux (2002a) is also concerned about how education has become privatized and can be used as a “form of venture capital” straying far from the original intent of the public good (p. 7). Furthermore, Wendt (1994) states that the new culture has changed “the life of the mind into a business” (p. 39). It is curious to reflect on how the culture of higher education has evolved to what many believe is a dangerous situation, when essentially, the principles, practices and terms associated with business are respected throughout the world. McMillan and Cheney (1996) argue that when the language of business is applied to educational institutions the danger occurs when it “obscures or dismisses” the intent of education (p. 5). Giroux (2002a) concurs and further argues that the actions of higher education of addressing the public good have eroded institutions because they support and promote individualism (p. 1). This cultural shift towards corporatization is evident in that these outcomes were not the original intent of the compact as described by Couturier (2005). Business principles alone are not responsible for this evolution.
The adoption of business metaphors, not just business practices, is an important distinction argues Wallace (2001). Wallace claims that metaphors are meaningful and shape organizational culture. McMillan and Cheney (1996) support this claim in that “we have a certain tendency to become what we say we are” (p. 2). Therefore, if an educational institution acts like a business this fundamentally changes how its organizational members and its constituents respond and act. Changes in these actions influence changes in organizational culture. At first the adoption of business language appeared harmless however, it is now problematic on many levels according to McMillan and Cheney (1996, p. 2). They argue that the metaphor interferes with institutional, faculty and student relationships and expectations. Giroux (2002a) provides an example of how two students sold themselves to a corporation in order to sponsor their university costs. They were essentially used to market the sponsoring company. In the media frenzy that followed, the students received accolades of “individual ingenuity, business acumen, and resourcefulness” for their scheme to pay their tuition (p. 3). Giroux is concerned that there was little reaction to the individual and social implications of these students defining their identities as commodities and presenting themselves “as objects to be advertised and consumed” (p. 2).
There is an abundance of literature on the negative consequences of higher education moving away from traditional educational concepts towards a corporate model. Students, faculty, and the public bear these consequences. Students suffer when traditional learning is replaced by less costly methods and the use of part-time faculty (Wendt, 1994, p. 36). As a result, the culture of higher education becomes more corporate and the bottom line is often a consideration over the pedagogy. McMillan and Cheney (1996) and Wendt (1994) also document how faculty members are fearful for their jobs if they do not meet students’ expectations. The universal business maxim, the ‘customer is always right,’ essentially turns upside down the traditional role of faculty and students. Subsequently, students’ sense of entitlement appears to tip the scales of public good in favour of “individualism at the expense of community” (McMillan & Cheney, 1996, p. 1). It is rather ironic that one of the goals of education is to encourage students to speak up for their rights. Students are speaking up, but their voices are directed to attaining shallow privilege rather than to defending rights. A student might view an instructor’s failure to be entertaining, or the lack of job guarantees, as injustices requiring redress (McMillan & Cheney, 1996, p. 1). These findings suggest that corporate values are now embedded in higher education and it appears that a culture of fear and mistrust has developed. In contrast, some institutions have been able to benefit from profitable departments that offer customized educational services and sales of curriculum to local and worldwide markets (Levin, 2005; Dennison, 1995). Regardless of the outcome, it would appear that there has been a shift in value systems and culture in higher education (Giroux, 2002a; Wendt, 1994). Wendt (1994) argues that we must “remain ever vigilant of hegemonic practices that reprioritize the philosophies and values of education” as they shape our culture (p. 39). Finally, a few alternatives are suggested to counter the damaging effects of the corporate culture in higher education.
A silver lining in the dark cloud of higher education operating as a business can be found. McMillan and Cheney (1996) and Turk (2000) make recommendations that are supportive of renewing the compact between higher education and the public. First, institutions can be aware of business language and corporate practices and their impact on the culture. Second, administrators can weigh the pros and cons of decisions and keep the goals of education at the forefront. Third, even the simple change of referring to the student as client instead of customer can make a difference in defining the relationship (McMillan & Cheney, 1996, p. 12). The warnings about the dangers of higher education acting as a business have been sounded. It is up to those in leadership positions to understand these implications and to take responsibility for influencing change toward the original goals of education.
The unspoken compact between higher education and the public put forward by Couturier (2005) is based upon meeting societal needs and providing for the public good. Faculty hold to this compact in their search for the truth, intellectual creativity, academic standards, scientific invention, the ideals of citizenship and the practice of community (Slaughter & Leslie, 1997). Increasingly, faculty are diverted from these pursuits as they move from their historical place between capital and labour to a place now operating under market conditions (Slaughter, 1998). Faculty who were once quite autonomous have become increasingly managed as higher education institutions respond to market forces which demand revenue generation and efficiency (Rhoades, 1998). This devolution of the role of faculty is summarized aptly by Giroux (2002b):
Faculty are now defined less through their scholarship than through their ability to secure funds and grants from foundations, corporations, and other external sources. Instead of concentrating on critical teaching and research aimed at the public good, faculty are now urged to focus in on corporate largesse. (¶ 1.6)
The tension which has historically existed between market values and those non-commodifiable values related to the public good has been disrupted in ways which, it will be argued, run counter to the social compact. Three themes will be explored, including the managed and dichotomized nature of faculty work, the quality of pedagogy in a changing world and the casualization of faculty.
Education must be treated as a public good and as a “crucial site where students gain a public voice and come to grips with their own power as individual and social agents” (Giroux, 2002a, p. 7). Faculty engage in pedagogical practices which are moral and political and serve to influence how students think about their world. Such a focus on teaching and engaging students is compromised by the forces of globalization and academic capitalism. The introduction of market influences in higher education can be traced in the US to the early 1970s when government gave financial aid to students rather than institutions and in the UK to the early 1990s when teaching and research, once a single funding function, were divided into separate bidding systems (Slaughter, 1998). Canadian universities, originally teaching institutions, changed during the early 1980s as professors began to define their work by their research rather than by their teaching; teaching was referred to as a load and research as an opportunity (Fisher & Rubenson, 1998, p. 87). The contribution to the public good of both research and teaching has been eroded by market forces in a number of ways. The devaluing of critical or pure research which is not tied to corporate or targeted government funding has meant that faculty think more and more like entrepreneurs and conduct less open-ended basic research that has in the past led to some of the most important and least expected discoveries in history. It becomes difficult for faculty to address pressing social and ethical issues if the bottom line becomes the most valued objective. The issue of private versus public good is also contentious, not only are corporate interests served by applied research, but also individual faculty benefit personally and professionally by becoming “academic entrepreneurs” (Giroux, 2002a, p. 7). Teaching does not offer such extrinsic reward, in fact, quite the opposite. Incentive-based budgeting targets for generating student credit-hours result in larger classes, especially at the undergraduate level, and there is little recognition of teaching excellence in the tenure process.
The Boyer Commission (1998) states that teaching in higher education settings is undervalued and recommends that the standards used to evaluate research be used for teaching and service. Even though the commission studied only 126 research universities, its report on teaching quality was damning with reference made to badly trained instructors, untrained teaching assistants and “tenured drones who deliver set lectures from yellowed notes, making no effort to engage the bored minds of the students in front of them” (p. 6). Institutions in which less emphasis is placed on research do not necessarily show better results in the quality of teaching as has been shown in the Greater Expectations project conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU, 2002). A consortium of 26 university and college leaders analyzed teaching and learning in American institutions and found that “the dark secret of higher education is that most college professors are never trained to be teachers” and that this missing component in the doctoral process occurs because it is assumed teaching skills are easy to acquire (Chapter 2, ¶ 4). A dearth of meaningful assessment data on whether students are actually learning what professors are teaching is also noted. Recommendations include reforming doctoral education so that professors are prepared to be effective educators with the goal of developing intentional, empowered, responsible learners. The type of teaching and learning described in AACU’s proposed New Academy is grounded in liberal education, civic responsibility and global understanding.
Efficiency-based measures have resulted in larger classes, fewer full-time faculty, more adjunct and casual instructors and less time working with students. The practice of buying out some or all of one’s teaching responsibilities by using contract monies to hire replacements is now common practice (Slaughter & Leslie, 1997). In the most recent digest of The National Centre for Education Statistics, the number of part-time faculty in the US is shown to have risen from 40 to 45 percent of total faculty between 1998 and 2001 (2003). Reliance on part-time labour saves money on one level but it imposes costs at a deeper one. Along with the increase in number of adjunct faculty members comes their effective removal from the faculty governance process such that “the hiring of part-time faculty to minimize costs simultaneously maximizes managerial control over faculty and the educational process itself” (Giroux, 2002a, p. 17). The task of mediating the complexity of the undergraduate experience is largely in the hands of sessional or adjunct faculty who may also lack experience themselves. They may teach at two or more universities or colleges in the same academic term, thus reducing the chances for meeting with students outside of class and excluding their involvement in professional development and the wider life of the institution. In fact, casual staff may feel as isolated as the first year students they are teaching (Kift, 2003). Students are not well served under such conditions. Even by market standards, this is unsatisfactory as the needs and interests of the enterprise can be seen as taking precedence over the needs of the customer (Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004, p. 286). According to Levin (2001), what is required is a return to putting student and community needs ahead of economic priorities (p. 181). One step in this direction is a return to valuing quality instruction such as has been noted earlier in the Greater Expectations project (AACU, 2002). In Canada, teaching chairs and teaching excellence awards are now found at Queen’s University, the University of Toronto and the University of Alberta. Mount Allison University in New Brunswick has recently established an endowed professorship. These developments are an example of how faculty can be instrumental against the forces of globalization by maintaining their focus on academic standards and teaching excellence and by upholding the ideals of citizenship.
While curriculum, in the narrow sense of the term, refers to a course or program of study, it will be used here to depict the broad thrust and intent of educational institutions. The economic concepts of human capital and social capital are used to illustrate and give context to the comparison of vocational and liberal arts curricula.
Schultz (1961) developed the concept of human capital and its importance to economies. He identified and filled a gap in economic theory by taking into account the intangibles of human contribution – knowledge, skill, mobility and health – which he named human capital (p. 1). Shultz’s definitions of knowledge and skill were work-related. Knowledge referred to formal education and skills meant specific job skills. Although the pursuit of human capital has been associated with narrow instrumentalism by Giroux, (2002a), Healy and Côté (2001) have extended the human capital concept to include the idea of social well-being as an outcome of human capital development. Coleman (1988) pursued similar notions in his work on social capital. Coleman coined the term social capital in an attempt to combine two otherwise divergent views about social action: that of the sociologist, who views action within social context and without reference to individual motivation, and that of the economist, who sees action as independently motivated and undertaken by self-interested actors without reference to context (pp. S95-S96). Social capital brings social context and individual motivation together. Social capital is inherent in relationships between individuals, in networks of obligation, expectations, trust, and accepted norms and sanctions. Individuals achieve their goals by participating in webs of relationship. A dichotomy similar to that of social and human capital is found today in the world of higher education in the contrast between liberal arts education and vocational training (Brint & Karabel, 1989).
On the one hand is the traditional liberal arts curriculum and agenda. Education is seen as a public good (Giroux, 2002a; Kempner, 1998). Its task is to shape character and identity, to develop critically thinking and socially and democratically involved citizens, and to inculcate such humanistic values as justice, freedom, equality, ethics, moral vision, civic courage and social responsibility (Fisher & Rubenson, 1998; Giroux, 2002a). In these terms, education is the means to enhance social capital. On the other hand is vocational training, or the teaching of specific job-related skills, whether they be for operating drill presses or operating on brains (Hennigan, 2001). This is related directly to the concept of human capital. Governments and businesses find common cause in supporting vocational training in the interests of growing the economy. Slaughter and Leslie (1997) identify academic capital as a subset of human capital.
In an increasingly instrumentalist-oriented culture, higher education is under pressure to tailor its outcomes to the marketplace rather than to the betterment of society as a whole (Fisher & Rubenson, 1998; Slaughter & Leslie, 1997). The pressure is not just from government and business. Students are also putting increased emphasis on higher education to provide directly applicable vocational/career training (Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004). Job-oriented students see no benefit in taking liberal arts courses (MacTaggart, 1993).
Proponents of the liberal arts have undertaken three broad patterns of response to the pressure to vocationalize – resistance, expansion in new territories, and accommodation. Some seek to hold the line, urging one another to maintain the distinction between education and vocational training and to refuse the temptations of corporatism (Giroux, 2002a). They offer resistance on the traditional grounds that research is associated with the public good and that basic curiosity-driven research is both essential and important (Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004). As a new development, proponents are advocating that liberal education is a necessary element in battling the deleterious social and environmental problems associated with globalization (Balon-Rotheram, 2003; Bowers, 2001). The staking out of new territory is another response to vocationalizing pressures from those who value the liberal arts. Liberal arts colleges are finding fertile new ground in Africa, Asia, and Eastern and Western Europe. The colleges see themselves as carrying out their civilizing mandate by taking their values and curricula abroad (Gillespie, 2003; Sylvester, 2002). Some liberal arts advocates have adopted the adage that ‘if you can’t beat them, join them.’ While the term New Vocationalism can be narrowly interpreted to mean the co-optation of higher education by the demands of the marketplace, it is also more broadly considered to mean a blending of the education and vocational curricula (Hennigan, 2001). The movement is based in emerging theories of learning, the philosophy of the New Vocationalism, and the demands of politics and the marketplace (Dare, 2001; Levin, 2001; MacTaggart, 1993; Marginson & Considine, 2000). The blending is intended to give vocational students grounding not only in their specialties, but also in the traditional citizenship-building subjects of the liberal arts (Micari, 2003). According to Bragg and Reger (2000), the experiment is young and has produced mixed results. It remains to be seen whether or not this blending is accomplished at the expense of the liberal arts curriculum and its benefits.
It appears that champions of the liberal arts have not yet found a way to halt the incursions of vocationalism, let alone a way to regain the ascendancy that the liberal arts maintained during the last two or more centuries. This is a problematic situation for those who see the public good as consisting of more than simply economic considerations. Perhaps they can take comfort in the idea that extremes tend to move back to the centre. Evidence of the pendulum’s swing may be found in the Conference Board of Canada’s (2000) Employability Skills, which along with vocationally oriented skills such as numeracy and problem-solving, emphasize critical thinking, flexibility and social responsibility. It may be that rather than disappearing, the social compact is being embedded in the emerging curriculum.
Perhaps the most vulnerable group in the move to a business-like model in higher education is the students. While their presence is vital and central to the core purpose of the university, they tend to be passive recipients in the educational endeavour and, for the most part, lack a unified or persuasive voice in the construction of the institutional ethos. Student vulnerability comes in many forms – they are economically vulnerable as the costs of education can be daunting for many (Astin & Oseguera, 2004). They are socially vulnerable to the compromising effects of market powers increasingly operating in the lucrative college and university market (Giroux, 2002a, p. 19). Most importantly they are academically vulnerable, taught by less experienced faculty as senior academics succumb to the lure of public and private funds for research that takes them out of the classroom (Slaughter & Leslie, 1997). Clearly, a great deal of evidence illustrates that the adoption of a business model in education can be harmful. This is especially, but not exclusively, true for economically or socially marginalized students. For purposes of the current assertion, three factors will be examined to shed light on this discussion, namely students as commodities and consumers, increased cultural diversity, and financial impacts on students. While the pervasive impact of the business model on our society is recognized, we also agree that its negative impact on students can be mediated by the use of traditional business methods that are geared to ensuring that universities remain economically viable.
Giroux (2002a) states that the increasing tendency to see universities in a business-like fashion has led to the commodification of students (p. 19). Students are inundated with industries that seek their business for financial and leisure products. Thus, the line between student and consumer is distorted. And this does not end when a student graduates. It is purported that most alumni can tell stories of a regular barrage of credit card and insurance company solicitations to former graduates as a means for the alumni society to reap significant revenues. Faculty, too, can be willing participants in the tendency to view students as commodities. Slaughter (1998) outlines how one university department candidly acknowledged that while the private sector is largely uninterested in their research activities they are interested in their students as potential employees. This has led to the department acting as an employment agent, charging a fee to interview students (p. 193). Giroux states that universities have a responsibility to protect students from the insidious nature of corporate encroachment (p. 19). As these effects can be subtle, they may be the most dangerous corporate behaviours threatening the traditional role of the university in safeguarding the public good.
Increasingly, students are seen as consumers and universities are seen as sellers (Slaughter & Leslie, 1997). Increased migration from non-English speaking countries has led to educational institutions looking to English as a second language and international education as lucrative endeavours for reaping several times more tuition funds than Canadian citizens are required to pay. Furthermore, consumerization can be seen in the increased numbers of degree granting, for-profit institutions. Seen within a business frame, these institutions are described as “efficient, self sufficient, responsive and entrepreneurial” (Pusser et al., 2005, p. 1). They lack any of the ancillary functions of traditional colleges and universities such as research, community service, athletics, and student social life activities; they exist solely to credentialize those individuals who are willing to buy the educational products (p. 28). Private lenders are available to provide market rate loans to those students requiring financial aid. The obvious efficiencies of this model exert pressure, largely indirect, on colleges and universities that are increasingly under pressure to compete with these institutions for students.
Globalization is not simply an economic condition. Another byproduct of globalization involves increased migration which in turn creates a diverse population (Levin, 2001). While this brings many benefits to our society, it also brings some often under-recognized effects. Students whose families have migrated to Canada are often the first generation of students to seek post secondary education (Pascarella et al., 2004). While many of these students succeed, many fall victim to the same conditions that strike all first generation students. They lack the cultural capital to understand the social nuances required to navigate post secondary education and as a result their drop out rates are higher than for students whose parents have attended college or university.
As available public money to support universities dwindles, students – especially disadvantaged students – experience the financial impact more than others. In recent years, student aid programs have undergone a dramatic shift. Tuition has increased, grants have been replaced with loans and needs-based aid criteria have been replaced with merit-based student aid. Financial constraints on the university translates into the ability to pay becoming a more heavily weighted criterion than was previously the case. The end result is that wealthy students are increasingly over-represented in universities and poor and middle class students are severely under-represented (Astin & Osequera, 2004, p. 323). Couturier (2005) reports that the impact of this is dramatic, while 41% of students from wealthy families obtain a degree, only 6% of students from lower socio-economic backgrounds successfully obtain a degree (p. 95).
Giroux (2002a) states that education has historically been seen as a civilizing influence, providing the basis by which students can learn and exercise the rights of an informed citizenry, able and willing to further civic dialogue. A vital part of this civic dialogue is contributed by “cultural dissidents” who resist the pressures that economic forces create (p. 22). While this is a necessary and vital component of a civilized society, it is not sufficient. Couturier (2005) offers a model that acknowledges the importance of universities ensuring their long term viability by keeping an eye on economic conditions and forces without losing sight of the need to maintain the fragile “social compact…that exists in spirit only” (p. 96). It is possible that the social compact could be maintained by using planned performance measures adapted from the business world. Grant levels for needy students could be used to reflect the larger communities in terms of age, gender and race. In addition, rewards could be issued to faculty for service to broad-based groups of students. While Giroux and others might disparage the use of these business-like measures to protect the traditional role of universities, the significant issues of student success and maintenance of the social compact might be safeguarded in this way.
Summary and Conclusions
Evidence has been presented to illustrate how the shift from educational to entrepreneurial interests has eroded the traditional mission, values and practices of higher education to the detriment of the public good. Several strategies were proposed and discussed for counteracting the negative influences of globalization to safeguard the public trust in higher education. The theoretical approaches of Couturier (2005) and Kempner (1998) undergirded our argument for upholding the terms of the compact in higher education to counteract the impacts of “excessive commercialization” (Bok, 2003, p. 185).
Culture, faculty, curriculum and students were the four aspects of higher education considered most pertinent for examining the specific impacts of globalization and for renewing the compact in higher education. With respect to culture, we recommend that educational institutions be conscious of the business language and practices adopted while weighing the advantages and disadvantages of various business-like decisions on organizational culture. At the faculty level, we recommend placing a high value on teaching excellence and student learning ahead of simply economic considerations. To address the challenges that vocationalism poses to traditional university curriculum, we take heart that the pendulum seems to be swinging back in favour of the liberal arts and to those essential elements that contribute to citizenship. And finally, in relation to students, we suggest that universities institute performance measures and incentives that build in rewards for faculty and staff for remaining responsive to a diverse range of students and community needs.
We are in agreement with Bok (2003) that we are approaching a critical juncture where the negative impacts of globalization are threatening to undermine the very nature and traditions of the university. In addition to the recommendations put forward, we support Bok’s assertion that systems of governance must be established to right the balance in favour of higher education practices and methods of accountability that truly safeguard the public interest. In keeping with Bok’s recommendations, we propose the following governance strategies: university leaders should secure the active participation of faculty members in important entrepreneurial policy and program decisions; boards should develop evaluative criteria for holding presidents accountable for consistently respecting academic standards; and government should be held to task for ensuring adequate and stable funding for higher education (pp. 187-198). We are hopeful that the strengths of all constituents will be enlisted to uphold the essential nature and role of the university – through renewal of the unspoken compact – for the benefit of future generations.
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