University, Inc.: The Corporate Corruption of Higher Education: Jennifer Washburn

American universities are the envy of the world, but they may be on the brink of discarding the very values and practices that have made them so successful, argues journalist Washburn, as secretive connections between private industry and the academy have begun to “undermine the foundation of public trust on which all universities depend.” Washburn has a muckraker’s keen eye for scandals and coverups; her examples of academic research suppressed in the name of corporate profits will startle readers. Not content with merely drawing back the curtains on the sordid world of the increasingly revenue-centered university, Washburn argues that the recent partnerships between schools and businesses rarely generate the financial windfall that they promise, leaving educational institutions and state legislatures with strapped resources and hollow rhetoric about creating the next Silicon Valley. While this focus on job creation (or the lack thereof) is the least sensational element of the book, it is the most timely and important, and Washburn’s coup de grace is to show that even private industrial leaders and economic pragmatists like Alan Greenspan have begun to criticize the decline of traditional liberal arts education and the rise of the corporate university as economically and socially disastrous. Washburn offers a few modest and thoughtful prescriptions for saving higher education, but this book is more likely to be read for the illnesses it lucidly diagnoses.

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