The Last Professors: The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities: Frank Donoghue

How is it that the number of students attending American universities has surged in recent decades, but the number of professors—especially humanities professors—has dwindled? The perplexing institutional dynamics of the modern university come in for penetrating scrutiny here. Donoghue, an Ohio State English professor, sees a troubling new conception of higher education emerging among administrators whose thinking reflects the bottom-line calculations of business executives, not the intellectual ideals of liberal-arts scholars. Inclined to view traditional professors as a costly anachronism, such administrators have been hiring low-pay adjunct instructors to replace them—and restricting their educational task to that of teaching employment skills. Even in the elite Ivy League, the humanities professors now must justify their work as a way of enhancing a school’s marketable prestige. Beleaguered professors face a dire situation in burgeoning state universities, where institutional accountants assess their research using simplistic ranking systems akin to those applied to football teams. A sobering analysis, sure to attract serious readers on and off campus.

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