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University, Inc.: The Corporate Corruption of Higher Education Paperback – August 22, 2006

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From Publishers Weekly

American universities are the envy of the world, but they may be on the brink of discarding the very values and practices that have made them so successful, argues journalist Washburn, as secretive connections between private industry and the academy have begun to "undermine the foundation of public trust on which all universities depend." Washburn has a muckraker's keen eye for scandals and coverups; her examples of academic research suppressed in the name of corporate profits will startle readers. Not content with merely drawing back the curtains on the sordid world of the increasingly revenue-centered university, Washburn argues that the recent partnerships between schools and businesses rarely generate the financial windfall that they promise, leaving educational institutions and state legislatures with strapped resources and hollow rhetoric about creating the next Silicon Valley. While this focus on job creation (or the lack thereof) is the least sensational element of the book, it is the most timely and important, and Washburn's coup de grace is to show that even private industrial leaders and economic pragmatists like Alan Greenspan have begun to criticize the decline of traditional liberal arts education and the rise of the corporate university as economically and socially disastrous. Washburn offers a few modest and thoughtful prescriptions for saving higher education, but this book is more likely to be read for the illnesses it lucidly diagnoses. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"A heartfelt, well-documented expose of a major rip-off that debases education in several important ways." -- Kirkus Reviews

"Jennifer Washburn has written a provocative, timely, deeply researched book about the ongoing corporate take-over of universities." -- Mark Edmundson, author of Teacher and Why Read?

"Washburn has done a splendid job of marshalling the evidence for this disturbing indictment." -- Marcia Angell, author of The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to do About It --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (August 22, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465090524
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465090525
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #171,689 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Donald on March 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Over the last several decades Federal and State governments, despite promises to the contrary, have gradually withdrawn much, if not almost all, support from public and private colleges and universities. As a result, institutions of higher learning have had to turn increasingly to corporate and philanthropic 'gifts' and industry contracts in order to survive and attract students and faculty. Instead of giving primary focus to training, education, scholarship and research, our colleges and universities have had to market themselves as 'products worth purchasing by the consumer---the parents, students, donors and alumni and corporations. Both science and humanities faculty are now being encouraged to become entrepreneurs rather than merely educators and have to seek ways to profit directly from their intellectual and technical pursuits. "University Inc" is a highly informative, well-written, if sometimes anecdotal, investigative report about the most egregious cases of commodifying higher education and of corporate influence over university polices and educational practices. It is an easy-to-read book that has been written to aggravate and challenge the reader. Sometimes it gets a bit too personal, but its a lot better read than a collection of dry data supporting the contention that universities have gone overboard in permitting the business world to dictate academic and educational policies and programs of research. Washburn's book is a "must read" for anyone interested in the future of higher education.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By John Broesamle on April 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Jennifer Washburn has written the most important book about the impact of corporate culture on higher education since Thorstein Veblen's 1918 classic,The Higher Learning in America. Over the past quarter-century, Washburn shows, our leading universities have quietly allowed themselves to be transformed into "patent factories" generating income for the campuses and their corporate backers. The ability of faculty to produce basic knowledge has been compromised by the competitiveness, secrecy, and profit-seeking that characterize private sector (as opposed to traditional academic) research. Because they are less lucrative than the patent-generating disciplines, the social sciences and humanities have been downgraded. Emphasis on teaching, which is expensive and unrelated to patentable research, has diminished. Conflict of interest has run rampant. Washburn devoted the better part of a decade to research for this book, which is a model of investigative journalism. Indeed, I know of no more important study of the American university in print.
John Broesamle
Professor Emeritus of History
California State University, Northridge
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By J. Wellington on July 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This has to be one of the saddest books I've read in a while. It's beautifully ironic. This book comes along and laments of the conflicts of interests with the marriage of universities and business while I am learning to embrace that I can love to have money.

I graduated from the University of Southern California and had a sense that something was amiss in the university system. Back then, I saw a university that catered strongly to the football program and felt like I was getting the scraps. The football program brought in the money and with the latest successes some immeasurable advertising.

However, there was an uneasy truce of advancing education and earning money. A university gets all excited about a new corporate sponsor giving millions to a department. But what if the corporate sponsor stipulates that the money be spent on research for the advancement of the sponsor's own products? Or that any breakthroughs from the research would be considered the assets of the sponsor's? And what happens when a professor mentoring graduate students is an owner of a private company?

In the former scenario, the research would have a STRONG affinity toward saying something positive about the sponsor's product. What department would say something bad about their sponsor even if research says so? There's statistics that would be some bias. In the second scenario, the spirit of research/education in a university environment is stymied and looks more like competing departments in a business or competing businesses. Instead of open sharing of ideas at the local coffeehouse, students are making fake notes to disguise their research from each other. In the final scenario, we may have a professor who only supports a thesis that supports his stock portfolio.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By John Harpur on December 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Over the past twenty years a flash flood of books has appeared which are critical of the intrusion of business models into the University. Washburn's book is striking the same vein - a cynic might sneer that the debate is beginning to have a 'burnt over' look to it. However, Washburn's book is unique in several respects. In the first instance it is very well written, well-paced, and the narrative fairly gallops along. Secondly, the examples of corporate contamination that she focuses on clearly illuminate the ambiguities that the University is prepared to live with, well at least the ambiguities that an Administration will live with. Moreover, Washburn identifies the tension between good old professor X receiving his state salary and good old entrepreneur professor X receiving huge sums of money from his privileged access to the social capital floating in the University environment. There are several very telling quotes from academics who believe it unwise to speak about their research too publicly lest a 'colleague' harness it to his or her own commercial enterprise. Thirdly, Washburn is balanced in her analysis. While acknowledging that corporatism can threaten many traditional values in the University, she is phelgmatic enough to acknowledge that some level of corporatism is both desirable and unavoidable (Roger Geiger in his book 'Knowledge and Money' refers to this nexus as the 'paradox of the marketplace'). The dilemma for Washburn and all who wish to espouse a both/and position on Business and the University, rather than an either/or position, is how to turn a seemingly sensible policy into a set of sensible procedures. Almost all books in this genre grudgingly accept the policy but few have ever laid out procedures to make it credible.Read more ›
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