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Tag Archives: higher education

Image: Lestatdelc, via Wikipedia, Creative Commons 3.0

by Linda Grant

A recent report by a steering committee at University of California-Berkeley, praised for its methodological rigor, provides gratifying news that gender gaps in faculty salaries appear to be diminishing on that campus. At the same time, the report underscores the complexity of the issue as one looks across disciplines and highlights the difficulties in devising effective strategies to eliminate lingering inequalities.  

An article about the report appearing in Inside Higher Education suggests strong administrative commitment to gender pay equity. Vice-Provost for Faculty, Janet Broughton, commented that UCB sought to create a “richly inclusive culture” and a “ salary program that can let us progress toward our equity ideals.” I find it heartening that her comments acknowledge that salary equity and supportive institutional climates are properly the responsibility of administrators and not, as too often has been the case, problems that must be addressed by the victims of inequities.

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not4sale From time to time I write about the commercialization of higher education. Some of my writings are even based on actual research, using interviews with administrators and faculty at various universities. Yet, I have to confess that my own administrative involvements –two long stints as chair of large departments– have provided me with insights that no interview could provide, sensitizing me to the commercial pressures affecting virtually everything about higher education these days.

A case in point: the emergence of revenue generating Master’s programs. This is of course a global phenomenon –one in which European universities  are actually ahead of their US counterparts. American universities are catching up rapidly, though, largely due to declining levels of state support for higher education and to demographic shifts that have reduced the supply of naïve 18-year olds with access to federal loans. Another factor (which sorely needs attention) is the spread of new budget systems such as “resource centered management” which require each academic division to generate its own revenue, rather than relying on the largesse of the central administration. The results of these pressures have compelled many universities to fetishize enrollments to an unprecedented degree. Thus one exasperated colleague of mine, appalled by the revenue-driven nature of curricular design these days, remarked that she had begun to feel “we’re not trying to educate students so much as capture them.” It seems that we’ve moved beyond seeing students as mere “customers,” and now view them as virtual ATMs.

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Northeastern University adjuncts organized successfully on their own behalf.

Northeastern University adjuncts organized successfully on their own behalf.

There’s a great deal of discussion about the “corporatization” of the university, or about “academic capitalism,” and the infusion of market logics into higher education. Much of this literature has followed the money and –reasonably enough— emphasized the growing academic effort to capture commercially lucrative knowledge, large public grants, or tuition dollars. I myself have contributed to this literature, however modestly. But because I have also held administrative positions, I have access to at least some inside knowledge about the “corporatization” of the academy. And this more experiential form of data convinces me that the study of higher education has been somewhat one-sided, in that it has ignored important changes in budget and accounting systems within the academy (such as “resource-centered management”), or the spread of marketing and institutional “branding,” which have powerfully infused market logics into many leading American universities. Another issue that warrants much closer attention than it has received is what we might call (however inelegantly) the “adjunctification” of the professoriat.

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A news story has been making the rounds in academic circles about a newly minted PhD job candidate who, when offered a tenure track faculty position at Nazareth College, attempted to negotiate salary and conditions only to have the college rescind the offer entirely. Here is the email the candidate says she sent the search committee:

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This month I completed what the Australians call a ‘FIFO’ – a fly in, fly out visit to London. I was there to participate in a review of the ESRC-funded research centre SKOPE, based at Oxford University. The visit coincided with the funeral in London of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Reading through the UK press obituaries, I think that a fair summary of Thatcher political life was that while she loved Britain, she loathed the British. It’s interesting that if, as many of the right-wing commentators claimed, she changed Britain for the better, her offspring now live in the US and South Africa and also flew in for the occasion.

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