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Wannabe U: Inside the Corporate University 1st Edition

4.9 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226815299
ISBN-10: 0226815293
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Editorial Reviews


“Gaye Tuchman has managed to weave together both a cogent structural analysis of the corporatizing forces reshaping U.S. universities and a colorful ethnographic portrait of a single aspiring institution. She does this with wit and wisdom, highlighting many of the tensions and contradictions of a system where every unit strives and claims to be well above average.”

(Troy Duster, New York University)

“In a compelling case study of Wannabe University, Gaye Tuchman thoroughly traces the metamorphosis of a university. She lays bare the combination of a managerialism focused on chasing status and a logic of compliance among divided and complicit academics that results in a comformist, transformed university.”

(Gary Rhoades, general secretary of the American Association of University Professors)

Wannabe U is an exceptional portrait of a state university that desperately wants to play in the big leagues. Tuchman illuminates how universities have not just borrowed tools from the business world but redefined them in ways that have had a far-reaching and pernicious influence on higher education. She deftly captures the careerist ambitions of administrators and the discomfort that these transformations can cause between older faculty and newer arrivals. In the midst of these changes and conflicts, Tuchman also notes how much the day-to-day experience of faculty and students is affected. No other book is as revealing about the revolution under way in American higher education as this one.”—Walter W. Powell, Stanford University

(Walter W. Powell)

“Tough, honest, highly entertaining. . . . It raises serious questions about the desirability of the shifts in policy and practice that have changed the landscape of the academy, yet it manages at the same time to be funny and entertaining. . . . This book raises important questions about what kind of higher education we want. Tuchman is passionately engaged, but never loses her sense of humour and leaves us with much to think about.”

(Times Higher Education)

About the Author

Gaye Tuchman is professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut. She is the author of Making News: A Study in the Construction of Reality and Edging Women Out: Victorian Novelists, Publishers, and Social Change, editor of The TV Establishment: Programming for Power and Profit, and coeditor of Hearth and Home: Images of Women in the Mass Media.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (October 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226815293
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226815299
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,577,804 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S. Sherman on January 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Gaye Tuchman's detailed ethnography of a 'university in transformation' is funny in many places, but mostly sad. The author herself is clearly not pleased with the general direction she describes, and so, while the book concludes that the university was successfully 'transformed', this cannot be regarded as a particularly happy ending. The 'transformation' the university is undergoing is from being a more or less average state university to one of the top twenty-five. Societal judgments on what distinguishes a university--above all, rankings in US News and World Report--are more or less accepted at face value. The focus of her work is the relationship between the administration and the faculty in the course of this process. Thus topics like student life and classroom dynamics are mostly absent. The general trajectory of Wannabe U is to become a more auditable university, with ever more measures of how faculty, and the university in general, is doing. In particular, a market orientation is introduced. The value of faculty, measured in how many grants they attain, becomes more quantifiable and important, as does the value of the university to the state economy and the private corporations based there. The latter is epitomized by a more assertive policy towards patents at the university, which, when achieved, sometimes result in such financial gain for faculty that they are able to purchase McMansions on the same streets as administrators. Gone are the days when scientists at universities used to look down at those based in private industry on the grounds that the former produced knowledge available for the general advancement of science, while the latter did not.
The administrators of Wannabe U belong to a mobile class ever in search of a better position.
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This is a wonderfully perceptive (if dispiriting) examination of how public universities are scrambling to conform to a simplistic and untested "market model" of excellence that in actuality kills curricular diversity, critical thinking, and self-governance. Tuchman is especially good on the rise of an auditing culture that pretends to be about monitoring student success and retention but actually aims at Taylorizing teaching and deprofessionalizing the professoriate.

If you work at a second-tier public university and your administration is talking about "transforming" itself to better prepare students for the job market and establish a "flagship" reputation, read this book immediately!
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This is an insightful scholarly review of the changes that occurred at a large public university, Wannabe U. Whether out of a desire to raise their ranking in a mass-media publication, or to emulate so many others, the author demonstrates how this representative public university changed, especially with respect to their administrators and management approach. The author maintains a level of objectivity that is rare. She notes how the changing relationships between faculty and administration have affected the academic environment as a whole. Many details of the changes that the author discusses, with respect to Wannabe U, match the stories from other large public universities. The author has gone to great lengths to hide the true identities of the administrators and college itself, although there is an online buzz as to the true identities. It might have been better if true identities had been used, but the approach is understandable in light of today's litigious society.
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This is an interesting book, interesting in large measure because it is so different. The book purports to be a case study of an anonymous, public, research university that is being `transformed' by corporatist presidential leadership. The study, however, is presented in narrative form, with personal details of the major players, comments from `interviewees' and so on. Our initial impulse is to see the book as a satire on current managerial practices and the ways in which they are making our universities more `accountable' but also more corporate, more `efficient' but also more empty, more `fiscally responsible' but also less academic and more putatively responsive to customers (the individuals formerly known as students) but actually striking Faustian bargains with them. The leaders in this gray new world are job-jumping opportunists, glad-handing centralizers, individuals who would be unrecognizable to the generations of academics who were, first and foremost, members of the faculty, proud of their teaching and proud of their research, "doing administration" as a duty or a penance but always attempting to focus on core functions rather than mouthing corporatist cant.

The more we read, however, the more it seems as if this is not so much a thinly-veiled satire on current practices, as embodied in a single example (most likely the University of Connecticut) as it is an actual documentary. One might also say a `mockumentary', except for the fact that there is little exaggeration here. Everything which the author recounts is entirely plausible. Indeed, it is all quite familiar. This is the way things often now are. The question is, why?

The book offers good answers. With the dramatic erosion of state funding for public education universities have adjusted.
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