Can the Essential Nature of Universities Survive the Drive to Commercialize

Feb 3rd, 2012
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Author information ► Article notes ► Copyright and License information ► Having spent 40 years in universities, I have had sufficient time to consider some of the idiosyncrasies, foibles and problems of these academic institutions. The purpose of this editorial is to discuss the current state of university research and explain why I find some aspects of the current situation disturbing.

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Universities, governments and industry: Can the essential nature of universities survive the drive to commercialize? Simon N. YoungAuthor information ? Article notes ? Copyright and License information ? Having spent 40 years in universities, I have had sufficient time to consider some of the idiosyncrasies, foibles and problems of these academic institutions. The purpose of this editorial is to discuss the current state of university research and explain why I find some aspects of the current situation disturbing. Changes that started during the second half of the 20th century and that have continued into the 21st threaten to bring about fundamental changes in the nature of universities. Some of the changes are commendable, for example, the large expansion in the proportion of the population attending universities, at least in the richer nations. Other trends are disturbing, especially the increasing tendency of governments and industry to view universities as engines for short-term economic gain. While universities certainly cannot ignore the context in which they function and the needs of society, responding purely to short-term economic considerations threatens to subvert the very nature of universities and some of the benefits they provide to society. So what exactly is a university and what is its purpose? I much prefer the Oxford English Dictionary definition of the word "university" to some of the more utilitarian definitions in other dictionaries. The Oxford defini

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