Monday, April 27, 2009

Is the university just another corporation

I just read an opinion piece in the NY Times, just one of many articles over the past few years that has criticized higher education of being focused on money and not truly on education. This particular piece focuses on the role of graduate students, arguing that we are preparing them for jobs that won't exist once they graduate (either due to overspecialization or tenured professors already taking up all of the positions), and taking advantage of them as cheap resources for teaching and research. Other pieces have argued that undergraduate students are treated, or at times demand to be treated, as customers or clients. Does this mean that assessments of our programs should focus less on learning outcomes and more on customer satisfaction?

I find myself very torn as I think about these issues, as in some ways I want to strongly defend higher education (certainly I chose an academic career path and believe in what I am doing), yet at the same time I can see flaws in the system as it currently operates. Especially in a time when we are under such economic strain, it can become easy to focus on the business side of the institution - being able to keep everything running and protecting job security. But are we losing sight of the mission of higher education?

What do you think?

Photo courtesy of Steve Wampler.

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