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

by Derek Bok
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 5, 2004 0691120129 978-0691120126

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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Editorial Reviews

From The New England Journal of Medicine

Why should this book about the commercialization of higher education, written by a former president of Harvard University, be reviewed in a medical journal? And what relevance does his thoughtful analysis of the corrosive effects of big-time athletics and profit-oriented education and research in our leading universities have for the medical profession? The answer should be obvious. Medical schools and teaching hospitals resemble the major research universities in being not-for-profit institutions that are entrusted with essential public responsibilities and that are now endangered by commercial incentives. As part of this carefully balanced yet compelling description of how financial rewards are increasingly tempting universities to compromise their educational and scholarly standards, Derek Bok also exposes the ethical crisis now facing academic medicine and the U.S. medical profession at large. Whether describing the scandals in the athletics programs at major colleges, the consequences of universities' pursuit of profits from the licensing of patented discoveries, or the conflicts of interest among faculty scientists who have financial ties to industry, 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. He seems as familiar with the medical academy as with the rest of the university scene. Unlike many university presidents, he fully understands the risks inherent in the growing liaison between medical schools and the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. Although he acknowledges the social usefulness of the enhanced collaboration between academic and corporate research that followed the passage of the Bayh-Dole Act in 1980, he also is clear about the risks to the integrity and independence of research in medical schools that results from industry sponsorship and about the need for stronger policies to protect these values. Bok says that corporate influence on research involving human subjects needs particular attention because of the threat to the welfare of patients, but he also says that the involvement of businesses in the education of practitioners is no less problematic, since the practitioners' education will determine how they treat their patients. He is right on both counts. Bok is also correct to emphasize the growing danger of the corporate subsidization of continuing medical education. By allowing pharmaceutical companies to support and thereby influence programs for the continuing education of practitioners, medical schools and teaching hospitals are surrendering their own professional responsibility for education. In so doing, they risk losing the public's trust in the objectivity and reliability of medical teaching and in the professional advice that is based on this teaching. He fears that this trend may no longer be reversible because medical schools and teaching hospitals already depend on corporate support, but I think he is too pessimistic. Continuing medical education does not need to be nearly as costly as it is, and it could be financed without corporate handouts. Professional medical educators could easily regain full control if they were determined to do so and if they worried less about the loss of their corporate subsidies. Despite similar concerns about the reversibility of much of the current commercial tide in higher education, Bok thinks that university leaders still have the power to develop policies that could effect change. He urges collective action by the trustees and presidents of our universities and hopes that senior faculty can be persuaded to join the effort. I believe the same should be said about our medical academic leadership. If a handful of the most prestigious and influential medical schools were to adopt new guidelines that drew clear and reasonable limits to protect research and education from the worst effects of corporate influence, we would be well on our way to a solution. Without such action, it is hard to see how the values of most medical professionals can be sustained in a climate that is now so heavily dominated by investor-owned corporations. The medical profession, like the rest of higher education, is too important to society to allow its future to be determined by market forces. One can only hope that this 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. I suspect his book has already become required reading for college presidents and trustees and other leaders in higher education. It deserves just as careful attention from the deans of medical schools and their faculty -- and indeed from all physicians who care about the soul of their profession. Arnold S. Relman, M.D.
Copyright © 2003 Massachusetts Medical Society. All rights reserved. The New England Journal of Medicine is a registered trademark of the MMS. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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."--

Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (December 5, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691120129
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691120126
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #180,468 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
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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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gazing into the future of universities September 10, 2003
Derek Bok, a professor and formerly president of Harvard, writes about the pressures for commercialization that institutions of higher education face and are likely to face in the future. (Commercialization is defined as "efforts within the university to make profit from teaching, research and other campus activities.") In particular, Professor Bok has taken on three major themes: commercialization of athletics, research and education (online teaching, extension programs, etc.)
For one, this book is a useful reality check. Through scores of studies, Professor Bok dispels the myth that these three activities are profitable. Save few exceptions, these endeavors prove financially disastrous. More than that, there are the hidden dangers of compromising a university's academic standards and standing in the community. The call for a candid evaluation of the costs of commercialization is half of the book's theme.
The other half outlines prescriptions and guidelines for university presidents about how to handle these increased pressures. Professor Bok suggests revision to NCAA rules, and university oversight and care to limit the influence of corporate sponsors over research or the curriculum taught in schools.
In the end, "Universities in the Marketplace" is a reminder that universities are built around values: "the larger message of a liberal arts education [is] that there is more to life than making money." These values and the collaborative spirit, on which universities thrive, are threatened by the mistaken perception that there is money to be made by exploiting a school's name. The adherence to high standards is an old prescription for new pressures, and the one that Professor Bok suggests as the ultimate guideline for dealing with the threats of the future.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended! August 4, 2005
Former Harvard University President Derek Bok warns that making commercial ventures part of the fabric of U.S. higher education endangers universities' basic values and goals. However, he also gives compelling descriptions of why trustees and administrators are tempted to sign deals with corporations. He is realistic about the slim prospects for keeping such ventures away, especially since some - like sports teams - are already entrenched. Because Bok's analysis is so deeply rooted in his years of experience leading Harvard, his proposed guidelines for how and when to allow big business on campus are particularly helpful. His views are occasionally unwarrantedly sunny, such as when he avers that faculty members rarely guide students into work that promotes the teacher's financial gain. He also asserts that faculty must be wary of collaborating with pharmaceutical companies to get access to facilities and materials, even though funding unfettered research has become increasingly difficult. Furthermore, after asserting that doctors are alert to drug companies' promotions in sponsored continuing education courses, he acknowledges research showing that doctors who attend such courses are more likely to prescribe the companies' drugs. Despite such detours, we find this book extremely valuable for anyone who believes that academic freedom and integrity truly matter. Academic leaders should read Bok's important, thoughtful and useful ideas on ways that colleges can minimize the risks of commercialization.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A Kid's Review
This work addresses the conflicts between outside financial interests and a university's commitment to providing its students with an education of the highest quality. Examples: Institutions with Division 1A football and basketball teams all too often permit their coaches to recruit players who normally would not be admitted as entering students, and to arrange for courses of substandard quality to be offered to such athletes for credit toward graduation, and this practice is supported enthusiastically and with unassailble force by alumni, legislators, and other backers. Professors subordinate teaching to research sponsored by well-paying commercial enterprises that sometimes skew the results and even the written reports in their favor. Drug companies pay professors to conduct trials of their products that are biased to emphasize positive results and even to suppress harmful side effects. Students of science are assigned such mundane tasks as proving that a given brand of spaghetti sauce is thicker than competing varieties, or proving that the number of, say, pretzel sticks in one brand exceeds those of others. Even not-for-profit schools increasingly offer for-profit correspondence or executive training courses and sessions that are not at all challenging to the professors who are cajoled into teaching them. Online enterprises such as the University of Phoenix threaten to make residential college campuses obsolete.

In this account of the corruption in academia caused by proffers of the almighty dollar, we are afforded a detailed sketch of a university or college president's many responsibilities, e.g., attracting and retaining highly qualified, respected professors, balancing intellectual interests against financial health.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A Nice Delineation of the Issues
Nonacademic observers frequently express the wish that universities `be run like businesses'. The (often sad) fact is that they already are so run, to the detriment of academic... Read more
Published on July 14, 2010 by Richard B. Schwartz
5.0 out of 5 stars Sobering Thoughts for Academics
As state legislatures squeeze funding for higher education and private university endowments shrink, entrepreneurial leaders in higher education have found creative ways to fill... Read more
Published on November 8, 2009 by Elizabeth T. Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book about capitalism and higher education
Great book with real life examples about higer education, capitalism, and marketplace. Quick and easy read.
Published on January 29, 2008 by D. Roberts
3.0 out of 5 stars Thoughts on Bok's Universities in the Marketplace
Derek Bok does a respectful job in describing the issues. The book provides an excellent foundation for the general public to understand the influence of commercialization on... Read more
Published on December 8, 2004 by Lynn Macalihaster
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Structured Look at University Prostitution
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... Read more
Published on June 18, 2003 by Robert David STEELE Vivas
5.0 out of 5 stars Commericializing higher education poses significant risks.
Derek Bok, former President of Harvard University, presents a clear and thoughtful examination of the risks of commercializing higher education, while recognizing that there are... Read more
Published on April 5, 2003 by Bruce Larson
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