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Universities in the Marketplace: The Commercialization of Higher Education [Paperback]

Derek Bok
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 5 2004

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.


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Review

Winner of the 2003 "Silver" Frandson Award for Literature in Higher Education

Winner of the Alice L. Beeman Research Award in Communications for Educational Advancement

"Provocative and original. . . . Bok is one of the premier elder statesman of American higher education."--Stephen B. Sample and Warren Bennis, Los Angeles Times

"Astute and fair-minded. . . . Derek Bok, a sensible man, has written a sensible book about the commercialization of the American university."--Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post Book World

"Contending that the trend toward excessive commercialization is not yet irreversible, Bok offers cogent, urgent arguments for reorienting universities toward fulfilling their unique purpose uncorrupted by the insidious influence of money."--USA Today

"Derek Bok begins his new book with [a] nightmare of university avarice and moral decay. Some of the moneymaking schemes are imaginary, but, as Mr. Bok warns, the dangers inherent in the insatiable demands for revenue are not. . . . It is increasingly difficult . . . to meet higher education's insatiable financial demands through conventional means. . . . Mr. Bok notes that commercialization has seeped even into the core educational mission. . . . Having a Derek Bok to remind us of our higher calling and the present dangers may, if his words are heeded, be more consequential than we can imagine."--Anthony W. Marx, New York Times

"Raises lots of big, disquieting questions. . . . Universities that blur the lines between their own culture and that of the corporate world endanger their values without substantially raising the value of their endowments. It is, in short, shortsighted. With the publication of this book, the nation's universities can't say they weren't warned."--David M. Shribman, Chicago Tribune

"Derek Bok, the former president of Harvard, argues that institutions have, perhaps unwittingly, made Faustian bargains. . . . Athletics provides a cautionary tale. . . . The dangers of corporate-sponsored research are even greater."--Glenn C. Altschuler, Barron's

"Bok realizes that there are times when allowing a business to provide funding for research or clothing for an athletic team is critical to a particular college's survival, but the trend of marketing various aspects of higher education is becoming more prevalent. This book is Bok's way of sounding the alarm for universities to analyze their practices critically."--Library Journal

"A humane and beautifully crafted book. Bok believes that the intrusion of the marketplace into the university is eroding fundamental academic values, and that we must act now to halt this decline. . . . [A] thoughtful and thought-provoking book."--Jeremy Gunawardena, Nature

"This is a good and needed book. . . . Bok strives for balance. He tries to puncture both the dangers to academe raised by its purists and the promises of easy money made by mortarboard Babbitts. He calls for new scrutiny of financial relationships between university researchers and companies. He [worries that] . . . corporate cash, fed slowly but in rising and addictive doses, will become the force behind what is discovered and what is ignored and even suppressed."--Ned Barnett, Raleigh News & Observer

"Bok shows that he knows his subject well and that he has done his homework. Moreover, he marshals the relevant facts with an even hand and unsparing candor. . . . One can only hope that his book will help the public understand what is at stake and will generate support for the needed reforms. Derek Bok has sounded a warning that ought to be heeded."--Arnold S. Relman, New England Journal of Medicine

"Bok is sensibly, judiciously and presidentially concerned. He puts the commercialization of the university into the same frame as big-time intercollegiate sport: both are unambiguous distractions from what universities are properly supposed to be about."--Steven Shapin, London Review of Books

"A thoughtful, clear-eyed inquiry into the impact of commercialization on the university's fundamental missions of education and research."--Daniel J. Kevles, American Scientist

"Bok is a retired President of Harvard, who was Dean of Harvard Law School before becoming President, and has been a distinguished professor in the Kennedy School of Government in his retirement. Harvard's endowment is worth something around $20 billion, so Professor Bok's views on money in higher education carry a certain weight. Bok provides a measured account of what goes wrong when too much of what a university does is seen to be up for sale--but not so measured that the point is lost or the lesson muffled. . . . Bok's patient attention to useful policies that each university can institute on its own--forbidding coaches to lean on professors for better grades, putting gin place policies about disclosure that commercial sponsors must sign up to--is the sort of thing that is needed."--Alan Ryan, Times Literary Supplement

"[An] excellent and beautifully written book."--Gordon Johnson, Times Higher Education Supplement

"Informed, concise, readable, temperate yet sounding necessary alarms."--Change

From the Inside Flap

"Derek Bok grasps better than anyone I know the changes that have taken place in the academic culture of American higher education. In Universities in the Marketplace, he documents the sheer growth of market forces and the escalation of commercialization in academia. Perhaps more important he alerts us that the reach of commercialization has moved from the innocent fringe of the campus (athletics and sweatshirts) to its academic heart. University presidents, trustees, and faculty leaders: take note! This is an important book."--Stanley O. Ikenberry, Regent Professor and President Emeritus, University of Illinois

"Derek Bok's wise and judicious book offers a road map for all concerned with the health and integrity of higher education in an age that has seen the boundaries between the academic, corporate, and public worlds become more permeable and the need to understand the costs associated with that transition more urgent. At the same time, President Bok's analysis of the potential dangers lurking in contemporary tendencies toward 'commercialization' is an affirmation that the enduring values of the academy can be extended and strengthened through thoughtful and careful engagement with the questions at issue."--Hanna Holborn Gray, President Emeritus, University of Chicago

"Combining the experience of a seasoned university president with the analysis of a respected legal scholar, Derek Bok explores what he concludes are 'signs of excessive commercialization in every part of the university.' His somber assessment of the current state of athletics, scientific research, and distance education, and his call for review and restraint, should engage the attention of every faculty senate in the country. He has given us a timely, candid, courageous, and important book."--Frank H. T. Rhodes, President Emeritus, Cornell University

"This book is a thoughtful and wide-ranging analysis of the commercial pressures on universities. There is no other study like it. Extremely well organized, clear, and gracefully written, Universities in the Marketplace will be of interest to all those concerned about higher education and its future."--William G. Bowen, President, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

"Universities in the Marketplace is quite a successful book that breaks valuable new ground. Derek Bok's calmly reasoned voice contrasts favorably with the hyperbole that surrounds many such discussions. The writing is so clear and the arguments so reasonable that it is easy to overlook the author's effortless command of the relevant literature and his well-judged historical treatment of his subjects. No other book is both so comprehensive and so accessible."--Michael McPherson, President, Macalaster College

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Unfortunately, political and industrial interests are putting pressure (although not always willfully) on academia, to serve narrow business interests. The medical schools are already tainted by the funding power and controlling interests of the pharmaceutical industry as well as misguided university administrators (who think they can accept money and influence without getting over involved).
Just as many colleges have been compromised by how they run their athletic endeavors (e.g., admissions policies, lower admission standards, substandard courses such as "physics for football players") so to are universities endangered by selling off their scientific research as well as labeling nonscientific and trivial research as equivalent, nay superior to scholarly research. The main message of this book is (except for medical schools) it is not to late to say for universities and college administrats to say no to seemingly limited (but in the long run devastating) business and financial propositions that will debase the precious knowledge that has for two hundred years been the hallmark of a truly HIGHER EDUCATION--not EDUCATION for HIRE with great educational and social harm.
Bok's book (Bok is a former president of HARVARD) does explain that there are legitimate business partnerships and ventures for the modern university, but that they must be on guard so as not to throw out the baby ("scientific knowledge and the liberal arts") with the bath water ("the need for funding during bad economic times such as is the present case and reduced goverment funding").
If you are a professor, college administrator, or student, please buy and read this book. We don't want to see the great universities of the USA erode any further.
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Format:Hardcover
Anyone who has been associated with higher education in this country in the last fifty years is aware of the massive changes that have been sweeping over private colleges and state university systems in the last twenty to thirty years, changes ranging from the unfortunate consequences of political correctness to those associated with a relaxation of more rigorous academic standards to make such education "more accessible" to the population at large to other changes associated with the increasing concentration on more practical "vocational" educational skills to the proliferation of shop-as-you-go graduate educational programs, diploma mills designed to deliver to consumers a plethora of MBA and other business-oriented degrees in service to their career progression. Those of us professionally associated with higher education have often bemoaned the sad changes visiting themselves upon what was once a proud institution, the marvel of the western world in terms of its level of rigor, accessibility, and relative merit in terms of educational product.
In this recent tome by former Harvard University president Derek Bok, yet another form of change and devolution of all the academy once stood for is discussed with both intelligence and wit; the commercialization of institutions of higher education and the associated seduction and corruption of faculty, administrators and the university system itself. Bok takes a probing look at the many ways in which financial enticements have entered the ivory towers, and how such temptations are profoundly altering the business of the university system itself, often warping both the mission of the institution as well as the intellectual products flowing from the academic marketplace.
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Format:Hardcover
Derek Bok, former President of Harvard University and author of two useful books on "the state of the nation", has done a very fine job of examining the commercialization of the university, with separate chapters on athletics (the golden goose tends to cost more to maintain than most realize, both in financial terms and in terms of negative impacts on scholarship); scientific research; and customized executive education offered on a for-profit basis.
While the author concludes with some recommendations, the book is best for its reasoned discussion of the problems. The prostitution of the universities, and the blandness of undergraduate education, are issued that will not be solved by any one community, any one state, or even by Congress. This is going to require a President committed to national education and public health as the "first plank" of any national strategy to united and nurture what I think of as the "seven intelligence tribes": national (spies and counterspies), military, law enforcement, business, academic, non-profit and media, and religions-clans-citizens.
As we have seen in time since 9-11, all of these tribes appear to be failing--national on 9-11, military in Afghanistan and Iraq, law enforcement on Hamas and Pakistani terrorists still active within the US, business in general (Boeing being had by Airbus, for example), now in this book, the universities, the failure of the media to support the debate on going to war with Iraq, and of the New York Times in ethics specifically, the self-indulgent failure of the Catholic Church to police its own priests--this is not a pretty picture. In all of this, the university is central to the creation of a public that should be fully versed in "civitas" and electing public officials who are liberally educated as well as scientifically trained. That does not appear to be happening. This book helps explain why.
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