I just finished a great article about what’s happening in U.S. colleges and universities, the focus on the college experience and a changing business model driven by economics. The article, written by David Theo Goldberg in Inside Higher Ed, describes this phenomenon as “Uberization”. The full article can be found here and it is worth reading. For a quicker read, however, I have included some excerpts below:
“Once seen to be an investment in a reliably upwardly middle-class life for millions, higher education is no longer viewed as a presumptive public good. Instead, we have seen the demonization by conservative politicians and public commentators of the university as the bastion of liberal values. This has been accompanied by an ideological “imperative” of austerity, a centralizing of administration and board oversight at the expense of faculty governance, and a focus on the professions and work preparation (STEM, technology, business and law) as the dominant if not singular goal of higher education at the expense of the human sciences and the arts. All these trends have profoundly transformed how the university is understood and how it conceives and organizes itself….
[This logic of faculty enterprise] impacts undergraduate teaching, too, now disproportionately provided by adjunct or contingent instructors. Contingent faculty members, including adjuncts, have increased from 43 percent of the teaching force in 1975 to more than 70 percent today. And the growing erosion of tenure at major universities, as represented most notably by the Wisconsin university system, along with irregular salary increases and dwindling research support from within public institutions, suggest the creeping “casualization” of work conditions for ladder-rank faculty, as well.
These developments have gone hand in glove with spiraling competition both for research funding and tenure-track positions. A recent open search on my campus in a highly ranked traditional social-science department produced more than 400 applications for a single appointment. And faculty members constantly feel like they are under surveillance — both in the classroom and out, on the campus and off — from administrators, legislators, political lobbying groups and issue advocates, as well as students and their parents. Morale has sunk like cement in water.
All this has had significant consequences on the learning side of the equation. As students increasingly stress certification and job placement, educational institutions are responding by highlighting the college “experience” — as much socially as intellectually. Tuition costs have escalated as the social experience — dorm living, recreational and social networking opportunities — has spiraled in importance in the selection process of students and their families. Students as consumers have fueled the move to personal-interest learning — more often than not a function of perceived marketability — at the cost of a common body of knowledge. That is not to deny that both are important, but the former is eclipsing the latter with growing alacrity.” ……