Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line
The Marketing of Higher Education
Publication Date: September 2004
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How can you turn an English department into a revenue center? How do you grade students if they are "customers" you must please? How do you keep industry from dictating a university's research agenda? What happens when the life of the mind meets the bottom line? Wry and insightful, "Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line" takes us on a cross-country tour of the most powerful trend in academic life today--the rise of business values and the belief that efficiency, immediate practical usefulness, and marketplace triumph are the best measures of a university's success.
With a shrewd eye for the telling example, David Kirp relates stories of marketing incursions into places as diverse as New York University's philosophy department and the University of Virginia's business school, the high-minded University of Chicago and for-profit DeVry University. He describes how universities "brand" themselves for greater appeal in the competition for top students; how academic super-stars are wooed at outsized salaries to boost an institution's visibility and prestige; how taxpayer-supported academic research gets turned into profitable patents and ideas get sold to the highest bidder; and how the liberal arts shrink under the pressure to be self-supporting.
Far from doctrinaire, Kirp believes there's a place for the market--but the market must be kept in its place. While skewering Philistinism, he admires the entrepreneurial energy that has invigorated academe's dreary precincts. And finally, he issues a challenge to those who decry the ascent of market values: given the plight of higher education, what is the alternative?
Elizabeth Popp Berman is assistant professor of sociology at the University at Albany, State University of New York.