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Universities in the Marketplace

The Commercialization of Higher Education

Derek Bok

Publication Year: 2009

Is everything in a university for sale if the price is right? In this book, one of America's leading educators cautions that the answer is all too often "yes." Taking the first comprehensive look at the growing commercialization of our academic institutions, Derek Bok probes the efforts on campus to profit financially not only from athletics but increasingly, from education and research as well. He shows how such ventures are undermining core academic values and what universities can do to limit the damage.

Commercialization has many causes, but it could never have grown to its present state had it not been for the recent, rapid growth of money-making opportunities in a more technologically complex, knowledge-based economy. A brave new world has now emerged in which university presidents, enterprising professors, and even administrative staff can all find seductive opportunities to turn specialized knowledge into profit.

Bok argues that universities, faced with these temptations, are jeopardizing their fundamental mission in their eagerness to make money by agreeing to more and more compromises with basic academic values. He discusses the dangers posed by increased secrecy in corporate-funded research, for-profit Internet companies funded by venture capitalists, industry-subsidized educational programs for physicians, conflicts of interest in research on human subjects, and other questionable activities.

While entrepreneurial universities may occasionally succeed in the short term, reasons Bok, only those institutions that vigorously uphold academic values, even at the cost of a few lucrative ventures, will win public trust and retain the respect of faculty and students. Candid, evenhanded, and eminently readable, Universities in the Marketplace will be widely debated by all those concerned with the future of higher education in America and beyond.

Published by: Princeton University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-xiv

...During the past twenty-five years, universities have become much more active in selling what they know and do to individuals and corporations. Commercialization of this kind is not new; it came into being many decades ago through the growth of intercollegiate athletics. As early as 1915, Yale earned more than $1 million from its...

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1 The Roots of Commercialization

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pp. 1-17

...Toward the end of the twentieth century, American universities— with their stately buildings, tree-lined quadrangles, and slightly disheveled, often-preoccupied professors— found themselves in an enviable position. No longer quiet enclaves removed from the busy world, they had emerged as the nation’s chief source for the three...

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2 Avoiding Bias

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pp. 18-34

...Commercialization is not a neutral word, let alone a term of approval, in most academic circles. Rarely, if ever, does one read that a university’s efforts to “commercialize” its educational programs or its research activities have met with applause from its students or enthusiasm...

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3 Athletics

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pp. 35-56

...On a sunny afternoon in 1852, two groups of oarsmen— one from Harvard, one from Yale—raced against each other on Lake Winnipesaukee. The students may not have known it, but they were participating in the first intercollegiate sports contest in the United States. Even then, although there were no paying spectators...

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4 Scientific Research

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pp. 57-78

...of the murder of a young woman in Africa and her husband’s valiant efforts to avenge her death. It soon appears that these events all grow out of a major pharmaceutical firm’s campaign to develop a new drug for combating tuberculosis. Discovered in a Polish laboratory, the drug looks very promising at first, raising...

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5 Education

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pp. 79-98

...In 1998, Meyer Feldberg, dean of the Columbia Business School, received a phone call from an old friend, Michael Milken, impresario of junk bonds, master of the leveraged buy-out, and active again after twenty-two months in a federal prison for securities law violations...

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6 The Benefits and Costs of Commercialization

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pp. 99-121

...Commercialization typically begins when someone in the university finds an opportunity to make money: an offer of generous research funding in exchange for exclusive patent licensing rights; a chance to sell distance courses for a profit; or a lucrative contract with an apparel manufacturer offering cash and free athletic...

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7 Reforming Athletics

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pp. 122-138

...In 1987, after thirty-six years of service as the executive director and principal architect of the modern NCAA, Walter Byers retired and began to write about his long career presiding over intercollegiate athletics. One might have thought that the resulting work would...

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8 Protecting the Integrity of Research

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pp. 139-156

...In the early years of the twentieth century, professors debated whether they or their universities could properly obtain a patent and assert ownership over discoveries made in campus laboratories. Many eminent scientists frowned on the idea. Jacques Loeb of the...

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9 Preserving Educational Values

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pp. 157-184

...In the turbulent world of public education, a battle is in progress over the role of private enterprise in reviving troubled urban schools. For-profit companies, such as the Edison Corporation, are bidding to take over individual schools or even entire city systems, claiming that they can raise test scores, instill a new spirit of...

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10 Living Up to the Rules

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pp. 185-198

...Setting clear guidelines is essential to protect academic values from excessive commercialization. But guidelines alone, however thoughtfully devised, will not be enough. Cases will inevitably arise in which the rules are ambiguous, the circumstances novel, or the deviations arguably minor. Enterprising aides will think...

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11 Seizing the Moment

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pp. 199-208

...Today, American universities face exceptional opportunities and exceptional risks. Their research is needed more than ever now that new discoveries and expert knowledge have become so essential to progress in health care, economic growth, and other endeavors that matter to the nation. As careers grow more complicated and subject...


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pp. 209-226


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pp. 227-233

E-ISBN-13: 9781400825493
E-ISBN-10: 1400825490
Print-ISBN-13: 9780691120126
Print-ISBN-10: 0691120129

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2009

Edition: Core Textbook