The Market University? by Gilles Breton, Graduate School of International and Public Affairs, University of Ottawa, Canada
In what conditions were Market Universities created? (Elizabeth Poop Berman, Creating the Market University: How Academic Science Became an Economic Engine, Princeton University Press, 2012, Princeton, 265p – ISBN: 9780691147086).
How is it that, even in the academic world, market logic has managed to stand out despite the presence of a strong institutional logic, that of science? There are two main types of responses to these questions. The first one provides general answers, which still embrace either globalization or the rise of neo-liberalism. The other type of response, more empirical in nature, considers the search for additional revenue by higher education institutions and the demands of industry for university research that better meets its needs as the two major factors that have led universities to increasingly integrate the market logic.
The work of Elizabeth Poop Berman offers – from the American perspective – an original response, more political and institutional in nature, to the involvement of universities in economic activities through market logic. The thesis defended in this book is based on the following main arguments: it is the American Government which, in the middle of the 1970s, encourages universities to consider scientific research as a product that may prove to be economically viable while, at the same time, the idea of making scientific and technological innovation the vector of economic activity becomes the new project of political, economic and academic decision-makers, thus bringing the universities to redefine their mission and especially their involvement in the economy.
This translates, within academic institutions, by the passage of “science as a resource” to “science as a driver of economic activity”. That is to say that universities have abandoned the model which dominated until the 1970s, where their involvement in the economic activity was limited to providing basic research from which industries solved their problems and advanced technologically, to adopt a new model where science and research can now be used as an engine of the economy through a scientific production that pulls the innovation from which new areas of economic activities can be created or existing sectors may be transformed.
It is by relying on solid empirical research that the author brings to light the creation of the Market University. More specifically, three case studies are conducted that focus on the development of entrepreneurship by professors in the biosciences, the new development and management of patents by universities and finally, the study of the creation of industry-university research centres. These three case studies are conducted in light of the concept of institutional logic. The author shows how tensions evolved between market institutional logic (or capitalism), which evaluates the relevance of science by the value of its production on the market on the one hand, and scientific institutional logic, for which it is in the search for truth and the production of new knowledge that lies its intrinsic value on the other hand.
In her analysis, it appears that political decisions specific to each of the three cases studied were the main factors in the transition to the Market University; that these decisions were taken in a rather short period of time, from the end of the 1970s to the beginning of the 1980s; that it was mainly university teaching staff and middle managers, not senior management, who were initially the main agents of this transformation and finally, that the concept of the Market University, if it falls within the neo-liberal project in the sense that all human activity is reduced to creating economic value, also fits into an economic rationalization project (in the Weberian sense) that aims to place universities in the dominant economic rationality of the moment, that of growth through innovation, in which the universities become one of the main drivers.
Creating the Market University is an important book that enables us to understand how the conflict at the heart of academia came about, and which compares two opposing university projects: university and science for public good versus university and science for the market. In addition, if the proposed analysis of this migration to the Market University opens research perspectives and avenues of comparison which are extremely stimulating and challenging, it also confirms that it is not enough to turn the Market University into a neo-liberal politico-ideological project in order to understand how it is implemented and becomes established in our institutions. With drawing from the Market University, or simply going beyond the sciencemarket conflict, requires a thorough understanding of the current situation if we want to develop something new in the academic world, based on solid evidence. Elizabeth Popp Berman’s book can surely help. Download IAU Horizons (Vol. 19 No.2).