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What is the neoliberal university (or college), where did it come from, and what should be done about it? A Thread. #highereducation #capitalism #neoliberalism
1) The neoliberal university (or college) is an institution of higher education whose governance is primarily organized around increasing revenue, even when it is a non-profit or public institution. All other functions are secondary.
2) As part of their search for new revenue, neoliberal universities invest heavily in marketing to solicit new students, donations, grants, and partnerships with other schools, governments, or businesses.
3) When neoliberal universities raise enrollment and/ or tuition but do not significantly invest in teacher salaries or small class sizes, they redefine higher ed around tracking and providing students services, not student learning. This decreases retention, increases predation.
4) Neoliberal universities treat enrolled students not just as sources of tuition, but as captive markets for services (especially housing and food) or for advertising (for tabling, job and school fairs, for-profit vendors, etc.).
5) Neoliberal universities are focused on acquiring property and renting it to others-- particularly land, buildings, patented or copyrighted intellectual property, and their brands. Biotechnology and athletics play larger roles in this system than they did before.
6) The focus of the neoliberal university on developing intellectual property enmeshes it within “cognitive capitalism”, or the “information economy”, through “technology transfer” of knowledge into products.
7) According to Slaughter & Rhoades, universities' cultivation of captive markets and monetization of scientific discoveries generates a network of hybrid organizations whose blurring of lines between school and business produces “academic capitalism.” jhupbooks.press.jhu.edu/title/academic…
8) Neoliberal universities operate like for-profit employers. Their highly-paid managers both increase their employees’ workloads and use automation, subcontracting, and union-busting to reduce labor costs.
9) Explanations for the rise of the neoliberal university in the U.S. vary widely. Each explanation implies the need for a different response.
10) Many argue that a decline of per-student state govt funding for public schools is responsible for the rise of the neoliberal U. This places responsibility for public schools’ commercialization upon tax-cutting voters and politicians.
11) Suzanne Mettler argues that U.S. voters generally support public higher education, but plutocracy and political polarization limit politicians’ ability to effectively represent their voters’ policy preferences. basicbooks.com/titles/suzanne…
12) Chris Newfield argues that we’re reaping the effects of conservatives using culture war discourse against “political correctness” and “affirmative action” to mobilize white voters against public higher education. hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?is…
13) Libertarians tend to see the neoliberal U as a credential monopoly managed by a bloated administrator class. For them, a rent-seeking public school is just another government agency unaccountably stifling innovation and taxing captive populations.
14) The “academic capitalism” explanation for the rise of the neoliberal university is that as universities embraced biotech partnerships to fund STEM research, their leadership changed and became more like CEOs who then commercialized their whole schools. jhupbooks.press.jhu.edu/title/academic…
15) Mettler tweaks the academic capitalism argument, suggesting that federal grants & loans that expanded access to higher education unintentionally spurred a race to capture as much federal $ as possible. Politicians have failed to fix the problem. basicbooks.com/titles/suzanne…
16) The racial capitalism explanation for the rise of the neoliberal university is that public higher education in colonial societies was founded to redistribute indigenous land and the wealth generated by slave and non-white labor to white settlers. 1/2 tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.108…
17) Those who see higher education as part of a system of racial capitalism therefore argue that it is not coincidental that the criminalization of racial segregation and growing diversity of higher education have given rise to more exploitative and under-funded schools. 2/2
18) For the most part, both corporate liberal and conservative politicians embrace the neoliberal university’s focus on STEM, professional degrees, and online education, though they sometimes differ over the role of for-profit schools in this system.
19) Libertarian and right-wing challenges to the neoliberal university promote increased competition (relax accreditation standards), and/or reduced access (cut federal loans) to cut costs and supposedly spur innovation.
20) The liberal or left reform response to the rise of the neoliberal university is focused on decommodification: increased public funding, increased equity in admissions and hiring, and regulation of for-profit schools to limit their high student debt/ low graduation rate model.
21) Both liberal and left reformers tend to downplay public higher education’s more exploitative practices toward workers and students, assuming that they’ll naturally decline with more public funding.
22) Campus labor unions have historically focused on increasing members’ wages and benefits, but since 2008 have increasingly tried to work more with each other and with students in the belief that the only way to decommodify higher education is to democratize it.
23) There is, in my opinion, no single radical anti-capitalist response to the rise of the neoliberal university, other than to see its current legitimacy crisis as indicative of broader social crisis that ultimately requires a revolution to resolve.
24) One radical analysis that I find provocative is Sharon Stein’s argument that modern higher education is a “colonial structure” based in racial capitalism that must be “questioned, dismantled, and hospiced, so that new possibilities can emerge.” medium.com/@educationothe…
Afterthought: This thread is not even close to comprehensive. One big question it doesn't answer is: what are the functions of neoliberal universities? Whether producing workers, consumers, citizens, indebted subjects etc, I left this question to others, and/ or for another time.
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