Apologies to Brian Leiter for simply stealing an entire post but it is short and he is spot on here:
UK Philosophers Tackle the “Business Model” Being Forced on British Universities
Their blog is here. It deserves a wide readership; the issues it raises are not peculiar to the UK, though, ironically, because there is no meaningful private sector in higher education in Britain it is proving far easier for the government there to enforce the ‘business model’ on all universities. In the U.S., at least, the elite private universities can actually exploit their market position (in the market for prestige and certification) to uphold non-business models of learning, and by doing so they create some pressures for the elite public sector of higher education to do the same.
I totally agree with Leiter. When European politicians have called for, and implemented, an “Americanisation” of research and higher education, they have focused on the narrowly business-oriented aspects – valuable research is applied research, higher education is vocational education. There is nothing wrong with research being applied in real life (this is written on a computer, m’kay?) or students gaining real-life qualifications, but the point of having universities instead of R’n’D departments and vocational colleges disappears when public universities are put under a top-down market-focused management regime.
Equally, nobody considers that Yale, Harvard and the like are not typical US institutions of higher education – the question of the proper role of colleges and what our friends in the US call teaching universities are never addressed. Heck, unlike European university managers the Americans even talk about liberal arts colleges.
But enough of the yammering. In a few years time, there should be plenty of work to do for adventurous (American) policy analysts in doing post-mortems on European higher education policies.