Academic Capitalism, Evolution and Comparisons

  • Sheila SlaughterEmail author
Living reference work entry


During the second half of the twentieth century, professors, like other professionals, gradually became more involved in the market (Slaughter and Rhoades 1990; Brint 1994). In the 1980s, globalization accelerated the movement of faculty and universities toward the market. The 1980s were a turning point, when faculty and universities were incorporated into the market to the point where professional work began to be patterned differently, in kind, rather than in degree. Participation in the market began to undercut the tacit contract between professors and society because the market put as much emphasis on the bottom line as on client welfare. The raison d’etre for special treatment for universities, the training ground of professionals, as well as for professional privilege was undermined, increasing the likelihood that universities would be treated more like other organizations and professionals more like other workers.

As the economy globalized, the business or corporate sector in industrialized countries pushed the state to devote more resources to the enhancement and management of innovation, so that corporations and the nations in which they were headquartered could compete more successfully in world markets (Jessop 1993). Business leaders wanted government to sponsor commercial research and development in research universities and in government laboratories. In the United States, the National Science Foundation, once regarded as the bastion of basic research, developed Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers in the 1980s and, under President Clinton, a national science and technology policy exemplified by the Advanced Technology Programs housed in the Department of Commerce (Slaughter and Rhoades 1996). In the United Kingdom, Interdisciplinary Research Centers involving academic-industry-government funding emerged in the 1980s. Australia modeled its Cooperative Research Centers, founded in the 1990s, on the models provided by the United Kingdom and the United States (Hill 1993). Under Prime Minister Mulroney, Canada attempted to develop university-industry-government partnerships by tying increases in university research funding to corporate contributions for university research or for national research councils (Julien 1989). In all four countries, corporate CEOs worked with university leaders and government officials to develop partnerships aimed at bringing new products and processes to market (Slaughter 1990; Slaughter and Rhoades 1996). Faculty and research universities were willing to consider partnerships with business and government, based on commercial innovation because government spending on higher education was slowing down.

The flow of public money to higher education receded, in part because of increasing claims on government funds. In the 1970s, the emergence of global financial markets made possible the financing of ever larger debts in western industrialized countries. These monies were used primarily for entitlement programs (federally funded programs to which every citizen has a claim, for example, primary and secondary education, health care and social security), for debt service, and in the United States, for military expansion. As borrowing increased, federal shares of funding for postsecondary education programs (Slaughter and Rhoades 1996).

In the United States, the federal government was the primary funding agent for student aid and for research grants and contracts, but the several states generally paid for faculty salaries and institutional operations in public universities. As the share of Federal funds for higher education decreased, the states picked up some of the burden, but not all, because the states, too, were spending the bulk of their monies on entitlement or mandated programs, such as health care and prisons. Beginning with the economic downturn in 1983, states periodically experienced fiscal crisis (state income failed to match state expenditures). These crises precipitated restructuring in higher education. In 1993–1994, the several states, for the first time, experienced an absolute decline in the amount of money expended on higher education, rather than a decline in the share of resources provided or in inflation-adjusted, per student, expenditures. Again, the several states began to restructure higher education to contain costs. Restructuring often put increased resources at the disposal of units and departments close to the market, that is, those relatively able to generate external grants and contracts. At the state and federal level, then, conditions of financial uncertainty encouraged faculty and institutions to direct their efforts toward programs and research that intersected with the market.

To maintain or expand resources, faculty increasingly had to compete for external dollars that were tied to market-related research, which was referred to variously as applied, commercial, strategic, and targeted research, whether these monies were in the form of research grants and contracts, service contracts, partnerships with industry and government, technology transfer, or the recruitment of more and higher fees-paying students. These institutional and professorial market or market-like efforts to secure external monies were markers of academic capitalism.

Academic Capitalism in 1980s and 1990s

An in-depth review of state policy in four countries – Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States – revealed that in the 1980s and 1990s, the higher education policies of three of the four countries, Canada being the exception, began to converge (Slaughter and Leslie 1997). The areas of convergence were science and technology policy, curriculum, access and finance, and degree of autonomy. For the most part, these policies were concerned with economic competitiveness: product and process innovation, channeling students and resources into curricula that meet the needs of a global marketplace, preparing more students for the postindustrial work place at lower costs, managing faculty and institutional work more effectively and efficiently. Each of the countries developed a number of policies outside these parameters that did not converge. Even in the areas of convergence, the four countries arrived at similar policies by very different paths. Australia and the United Kingdom used their ministries of education, the former led by a Labor government, the later by a conservative government. In Canada and the United States, the provinces and the several states, as would be expected in relatively decentralized systems, often developed their own initiatives to promote academic capitalism. In the United States, Congress was more aggressive than the executive branch in creating an infrastructure for academic capitalism. Despite the very real differences in their political cultures, the four countries developed similar policies at those points where higher education intersected with globalization of the postindustrial political economy. Tertiary education policies in all countries moved toward science and technology policies that emphasized academic capitalism at the expense of basic or fundamental research, toward curricula policy that concentrated monies in science and technology and fields close to the market (business and intellectual property law, for example), toward increased access at lower government cost per student and toward organizational policies that undercut the autonomy of academic institutions and of faculty.

Research and development was probably the area in which the most dramatic policy changes occurred. In three countries, national policy shifted from promoting basic or fundamental research to privileging science and technology policy aimed at national wealth creation. Even in the United States and the United Kingdom, where fundamental R&D in the postwar period was to some degree conflated with defense R&D, strong civilian science and technology policies emerged (Slaughter and Rhoades 1996). The very words used to describe R&D changed. Research and development was no longer focused on basic or fundamental research, which came to be referred to derisively as “professors’ curiosity-driven research,” but on precompetitive, strategic, or targeted research (Lederman 1994; Wood 1992; Etzkowitz 1994a; Slaughter and Rhoades 1996).

Notions of the way science and technology moved from academy to industry became more complex, changing from “spin-off,” a concept that did not dwell on the causality of the leap from laboratory to commercial product, to technology transfer, which envisioned a relatively linear but highly managed transfer, to evolutionary explanations that make the process more complex (Gummett 1991; Leydesdorff 1994). The three countries have discourses to discuss science and technology policy that go far beyond, sometimes even do away with, basic and fundamental research as central categories. All three countries saw R&D as the font of technoscience, necessary for home-based multinationals to compete successfully in the global economy.

A number of policy initiatives involve universities in profit-making. The clearest cases are university technology licensing and university equity positions in faculty spin-off enterprises. In these instances, universities profit to the degree that products sell. However, technology parks directly bring profits to universities, if only the form of rent, and sometimes through housing joint-ventures. Centers of excellence, consortia with industry, and various university-industry partnerships most often provide multiyear government and corporate funding for commercially geared R&D, but can utilize any of the profit-sharing schemes described above: share of royalty or licensing income, joint-venture, or equity position. Changes in R&D policy in the several countries, then, moved universities into academic capitalism.

Curriculum policies in all four countries resulted in cutbacks in the arts and humanities (with the exception of Australia) and in the social sciences (Martin et al. 1992). In countries where the power and budgets for tertiary education are not reserved for the states and provinces, namely, in Australia and the United Kingdom, the changes were made through allocation of student places (and, indirectly, faculty positions), with more students being funded in science and technology than in other areas. In the United Kingdom, for example, the fees allocated for social sciences and humanities students were cut by 30%, to $1300, while fees for science and engineering laboratory courses rose to $2772 per student (Halliday 1993). In the United States, changes were made indirectly, through cutbacks in research funding in nonscience and technology areas, which resulted in fewer graduate student places.

In the United States, where salaries are partially determined by professors’ viability in the market and through individual negotiation between professor and administration, marked increases in salaries in technoscience areas reallocated institutional resources to these fields, making them more attractive to students. As other countries moved toward differential salaries, as did the United Kingdom, the resources concentrated in technoscience curricula, already rich in student places, were further concentrated.

In all four countries, despite projections to the contrary, enrollments went up, tuition went up, government share of costs went down, and governments turned more to loans and grants to support students. Generally, working class and first generation college students were concentrated in the lower tiers of the system in all four countries. As tuitions increased and the rate of government spending decreased, able students from families willing to purchase tertiary education occupied the most prestigious places, contributing to increased stratification and wealth inequality.

The degree of autonomy possessed by institutions and professors was reduced in the several areas discussed: R&D, curricula, and access. The loss of institutional autonomy was clearly seen with regard to R&D. In the United Kingdom, the government agency responsible for buffering institutions from the state – the University Grants Committee – was abolished and replaced with agencies dominated by members of the business community. In Australia, the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission, a body modeled on the British University Grants Committee, was abolished and many of its functions taken over by the Department of Education, Employment and Training, an agency the very title of which stressed the relationship between education and the economy (Marshall 1996). In the United States, the agency concerned with pure science – the National Science Foundation – began to promote industry-led research. To a substantial degree, the divisions between private and public organizations that had long protected institutional autonomy began to break down. The rule changes allowed public and nonprofit entities, whether universities, government agencies, or nonprofit research institutes, entry into the market, changing our common-sense understanding of what is public and what is private. Institutions still labeled public and nonprofit were able to patent and profit from discoveries made by their professional employees. Simultaneously, private, profit-making organizations were able to make alienable areas of public life previously held by the community as a whole: scientific knowledge, data bases, technology, strains, and properties of plants, even living animals and fragments of human beings (Slaughter and Rhoades 1996). With the exception of Australia, this privatization was industry led, held together by government policies and government funding, and serviced by tertiary institutions trying to augment funds.

Professors lost autonomy when research policies shifted from support for basic (professors’ curiosity-driven) research to more applied research geared to economic development. Professorial autonomy with regard to curricula was also eroded. National competitiveness policies, supported by industrialists, government bureaucrats, university administrators, and some faculty, to a considerable degree determined the direction of curricula through resource flows. Decisions about growth or decline of curricula were no longer made exclusively by faculty operating in a collegium. Instead, decisions were made at a national level to strengthen technoscience in hopes of stimulating national wealth creation. As market considerations began to influence professorial salaries, the collegial model of governance was attenuated as faculty who professed certain curricula were, quite literally, valued more than faculty who professed in less well-funded fields.

Professors lost autonomy in other aspects of their work. The various quality assessment and accountability schemes developed in the four countries often called for evaluation from bodies outside tertiary institutions, and frequently, from bodies outside specific disciplines. As decisions about professors’ performance of academic work were moved outside the purview of professional expertise, professors became more like all other informational workers and less like a community of scholars. Again, Canada was an exception; it has no external review at the federal level and only one province has instituted an external evaluation system by the mid 1990s.

Since 1980, the higher education policies of three of the four countries have converged, although the countries remain divergent on a number of important dimensions: for example, degree of centralization, student participation rates, and student support. The United Kingdom and Australia dealt with higher education and academic science and technology policy through relatively centralized state agencies, the United States through less centralized state agencies. Although the United Kingdom and Australia disbanded the buffer organizations that protected higher education from the state, the same degree of centralization in these countries persisted throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The United States did not develop more centralized agencies, although its policies on the relation of education to the economy began to converge with those of Australia and the United Kingdom. Prior to the 1980s, Australia and the United Kingdom had relatively low higher education participation rates, with 10–12% of 18- to 21-year-old cohort attending higher education, while Canada and the United States had relatively high participation rates, with about 30% of the 18- to 21-year-old cohort attending. Canada overtook the United States in 1988. Although all countries made plans to increase participation, given their very different starting points, enrollment patterns held throughout the 1980s and 1990s. With regard to student financial aid, the United States moved toward high tuition and toward loans rather than grants, and Australia and the United Kingdom explored similar policies while continuing to offer much more generous government support to students, as does Canada, than does the United States. In the United States, graduate students in technoscience fields are supported primarily from their professors’ federal grants and contracts, while in the other countries graduate students are supported by low or no tuition policies and often have government stipends for living expenses (Lederman 1994).

Despite persistent divergence with regard to organization, access, and student support, a remarkable degree of convergence in higher education and R&D policy occurred in three countries between 1980–1995. That convergence cannot be explained solely by the political party in power, given Australia’s labor government. We think that convergence is best explained by globalization theory. The rise of multipolar global competition destabilized Keynesian nation states, rendering problematic the implicit social contract between the citizenry and government with regard to entitlement programs and social safety nets. In the three countries, policy makers responded to increased competition for shares of global markets by reducing overall rates of increase in state expenditures and reallocating money among government functions. Generally, funds were taken away from discretionary programs, particularly from programs thought likely not to contribute in a direct way to technological innovation and economic competitiveness.

In sum, postindustrial economies replaced industrial ones even as globalization of the political economy destabilized traditional industrialized economies by replacing bipolar trading relationships with multipolar ones, causing the traditional industrialized nations to lose shares of global markets. In areas where higher education intersects with the global economy, three of the four countries have responded by developing policies that promote academic capitalism. Despite very different political cultures and institutions, the higher education policies of three of the four countries converged on science and technology policy, curriculum, access and finance, and degree of autonomy. These policies are, for the most part, geared toward increasing national economic competitiveness: they are concerned with product and process innovation, channeling students and resources into well-funded curricula that meet the needs of a global market place, preparing more students for the post-industrial work place at lower costs, and managing faculty and institutional work more effectively and efficiently.

Academic Capitalism: Developments and Complexities

The United States provided the context for the theory of academic capitalism, developed in the 1990s and early 2000s (Slaughter and Rhoades 2004). The focus on a single country was justified because the USA was the epitome of neoliberal capitalism. The rapid withdrawal of state resources from US higher education stimulated multiple approaches to the private sector on the part of various groups of actors within universities, making academe an exemplar of what a public neoliberal organization should be.

New circuits of knowledge. Knowledge no longer moved primarily within scientific/professional/scholarly networks. Teaching was no longer the province of faculty members who worked with students in classrooms, connected to wider realms of knowledge through their departments and disciplinary associations. Courseware like BlackBoard and WebCT linked faculty to electronic platforms that standardized teaching across colleges and universities, creating new circuits of knowledge that are more accountable to administrators than disciplinary associations. University-industry-government partnerships were another obvious example of new circuits of knowledge. University research was judged not only by peers but also by patent officials, who awarded ownership based on who is first to reduce to practice, and by corporations, which judged knowledge on its commercial potential.

Although peer review was still important within scholarly disciplines, universities as institutions no longer judged their own performance. Instead, outside organizations like US News and World Report rated college and university performance, judging their worth to the student/parent consumer. To some degree, such outsiders have replaced accrediting associations, creating new circuits of knowledge that move outside the educational profession, fusing education with consumption. Institutions competed for position, as concerned to maintain place in US News and World Report rankings as in ratings of the disciplines by scholarly peers (Ehrenberg 2000). When US News and World Report developed new rating categories, such as the degree to which campuses were “wired” or the “port to pillow ratio” for information technology in dormitories, colleges, and universities competed in these areas, even though the relation between expenses for new infrastructure to educational outcomes was not examined.

Peer review, the cornerstone of the academic profession, was no longer conducted solely by university members. The refereeing or review of scholarly papers by experts came to include degree holders who worked in industry as well as academics. The number of scholars from industry sitting on National Science Foundation (NSF) peer review programs rose substantially (Slaughter and Rhoades 1996). Although the industrial scholars may well be as competent as academics, the shift illustrated the new circuits of knowledge created under an academic capitalist knowledge/learning regime.

Interstitial organizational emergence. A number of new organizations emerged from the interstices of established colleges and universities to manage new activities related to generation of external revenues. Many of these organizations are boundary spanning, bringing universities, corporations, and the state closer together. For example, technology licensing offices equipped to manage intellectual property have burgeoned. Economic development offices have grown to oversee the linking of areas in which universities have research strength to efforts by the states to build their economies. Trademark licensing offices have emerged in increasing numbers of universities. Fund-raising officials are no longer confined to university foundations; they are now frequently located in colleges and even in departments. Universities, colleges, and departments have developed educational profit centers that market instructional programs to niche markets that are not part of the official curricula.

Intermediating networks. Actors and organizations that participate in an academic capitalist knowledge/learning regime were arrayed in networks that intermediate between public, nonprofit, and private sector. Intermediating organizations have proliferated in the past 25 years. Examples of such organizations are the Business Higher Education Forum (Slaughter 1990), the University-Industry-Government Research Roundtable, Internet2, Educause, and the League for Innovation, to name only a few. These organizations bring together different sectors interested in solving common problems that often stem from opportunities created by the knowledge economy. In corporatist fashion, representatives of the different sectors attempt to arrive at solutions before approaching the policy or legislative process. Networks of intermediating organizations allow representatives of public, nonprofit, and private institutions to work on concrete problems, often redrawing (but not erasing) the boundaries between public and private. For example, in the 1980s, the Business Higher Education Forum, an organization of corporate and university CEOs, made the case for individual education accounts (IEAs), to which workers could make tax-free contributions from which they could then withdraw funds to pay for retraining to retool for another of the multiple careers occasioned by the rapidly changing knowledge economy (Slaughter 1990). Corporations envisioned IEAs as providing for perpetual worker retraining, and given the educational demands of the new economy, community colleges could design certification programs, 4-year colleges could offer off-curricula programs able to act as profit centers, and universities could develop masters of science degrees that were essentially professional retraining or professional development courses. Legislation similar to the IEA was passed as part of the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997. The network of business and university leaders redrew traditional educational boundaries, taking advantage of new markets in ways that served the neoliberal knowledge economy and providing directly for education of corporate workers at state and worker expense.

Extended managerial capacity. New circuits of knowledge, interstitial organizational emergence, and intermediating networks called for extended managerial capacity on the part of colleges and universities. With trustees’ and university presidents’ approval, managers increased their capacity to engage the market, redrawing the boundaries between universities and the corporate sector. Patent and copyright offices, trademark licensing programs, economic development offices, distance-education profit centers, and special purpose foundations all increased the number of managers and managerial capacity within universities, to the point where nonexecutive administrators currently outnumber faculty.

In the 1980s, technology transfer officials engaged the market by licensing patented technology to corporations in return for royalties. In the 1990s, many universities began to take equity in start-up companies based on intellectual property discovered by faculty members. In effect, university managers acted as venture capitalists, picking technologies they thought would be winners in the new economy. By the end of the 1990s, university managers were involved in the market in terms of licensing income, usually received in the form of royalties from sales; milestone payments, which were made when particular research results were reached; equity interest, which could include publicly tradable shares, privately held shares, or options to acquire shares; material transfer agreements; tangible property sales (cell lines, software, compositions of matter); and trade secrets. A few universities permitted profit-making corporations in which faculty and/or administrators participated in corporations in which they held stock as consultants, employees, members, or chairs of boards of directors.

Copyright policies were developed primarily in the 1980s and 1990s. Although a number of institutions “allowed” faculty members to personally own their scholarly and creative works, universities increasingly claimed materials that were “work for hire,” which included all work by academic professionals or work directly commissioned by universities – for example, general education syllabi – or that made substantial use of university resources, which faculty often did when developing digitized courseware. The educational materials covered included video recordings, study guides, tests, syllabi, bibliographies, texts, films, film strips, charts, transparencies, other visual aids, programmed instructional materials, live video and audio broadcasts, and computer software including programs, program descriptions, and documentation of integrated circuit and databases. Some university managers who negotiated with corporations over copyrighted products, processes, and services were located in technology licensing and transfer offices. Sometimes these offices were expanded to become intellectual property offices or technology transfer and creative works offices. These offices oversee the business aspects of commercializing intellectual properties and managing copyright issues or of developing enterprise centers to further build up and market copyrightable educational materials. Extended managerial capacity is less developed with regard to copyrights than it is for patents because institutional copyright policies and offices are a more recent phenomenon.

New circuits of knowledge, interstitial organizational emergence, intermediating organizations, and expanded managerial capacity create networks through which college and universities connect to the knowledge economy. Colleges and universities also engage in an array of miscellaneous market and market-like behaviors that cut across colleges and universities, attaching a price to things that were once free or charging more for items or services that were once subsidized or provided at cost. For example, most universities now charge, whether outright or through fees, for parking, use of student recreation facilities, and use of computer facilities. Historically, subsidized meal services were located in dormitories and provided low-cost food for students. Now food services are outsourced to fast-food companies such as McDonald’s and Domino’s and are part of food courts located in student unions, which serve as mini-malls and profit centers. Although market and market-like behaviors are defined by competition for external resources, they are also associated with a host of ancillary behaviors, such as advertising and marketing. Enrollment management offices spend large sums on advertising, designing view books and other materials that represent the educational life style of the institution, and then mailing them to affluent zip codes or to students who scored well on standardized tests. Trademark licensing officials work with “athleisure”-wear corporations to cross-license products that are sold in book stores, where students are captive markets. Market and market-like behaviors, as well as ancillary practices such as advertising, have permeated the fabric of colleges and universities.

Although colleges and universities are integrating with the neoliberal knowledge economy and adopting many practices found in the corporate sector, they are not becoming corporations. Colleges and universities very clearly do not want to lose state and federal subsidies or, in the case of research universities, to pay taxes, to be held to corporate accounting standards (lax as these may be), to be held accountable for risks they take with state and donor money, and to relinquish, if they are public, eleventh-amendment protection and be liable for mistakes and various forms of malpractice. However, colleges and universities are participating in redrawing the boundaries between public and private sector, and they favor boundaries that allow them to participate in a wide variety of market activities that enable them to generate external revenues. Corporations participate in this redrawing because the new boundaries move research closer to the market, allowing universities to act as industrial laboratories and subsidizing the cost of product development. Similarly, many of the new forms of education prepare nontraditional student markets to use knowledge economy products or prepare them for entry-level work, socializing the cost of education.

These boundaries between private and public are fluid: colleges and universities, corporations, and the state (of which public universities are a part) are in constant negotiation. Contradictions and ironies are rife. For example, for-profit tertiary education makes money for corporations that provide educational services but may conflict with corporations that prefer state subsidy of worker training. Corporations worked with universities to support Bayh-Dole (1980), which privatized federal research, but are unhappy with universities’ aggressive claims to intellectual property and litigate regularly against them about ownership of broad patents that underlie a variety of pharmaceutical products. The “firewall” that once separated public and private sectors has become increasingly permeable.

As colleges and universities integrate with the knowledge economy, professional groups within them have to develop strategies for how they will position themselves. Departments and fields that are close to markets – for example, biotechnology, medical substances and devices, or information technology – have some built-in advantages, given the importance of these fields to the knowledge economy. However, the proximity of a department or program to the market does not always predict how it will fare in terms of institutional resource allocation or ability to generate external revenues. For example, a number of fine arts colleges, traditionally not conceptualized as close to the market, have redefined themselves so that they train art students in graphic design, digital animation, and web design, therefore connecting directly to the knowledge economy. Some departments find niche markets that allow them to generate external revenues. For example, some classics departments augment their budgets by sponsoring revenue-generating educational trips to Greece and Rome, while some anthropology departments offer tours of prehistoric sites, charging for the tour and the pleasure of digging. Some departments in education sell tests and measurements copyrighted by their faculty. Often the external revenues brought in by these market revenues allow such departments to continue to deliver the standard of education they think appropriate to their fields, while colleges and universities generally invest in other areas, such as information technology infrastructure or advertising for high-end, high-scoring student markets.

Faculty are no longer the only important group of professionals within universities. Academic professionals have also organized themselves – in groups like the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM), the Association of Collegiate Licensing Administrators, the Association of University Marketing Professionals, and many others. In many cases, they were able to crystallize as professional groups because they responded to opportunities offered by the neoliberal knowledge economy. Lacking the prerogatives historically accorded to faculty, these new groups of professionals became more strategic, aggressive, and flexible than faculty in responding to the opportunity structures associated with the neoliberal knowledge economy.

Academic Capitalism in the USA and in Europe

Given the move toward the market by many other countries, Slaughter and Cantwell (2012) decided to use the theory of academic capitalism as the analytical focus to compare the way the USA and the EU were moving higher education toward the market. The comparison was merited given that the EU indicated it hopes to surpass the USA in research by 2020. As in previous iterations, the theory of academic capitalism teases out the ways in which new institutional and organizational structures that link state agencies, corporations, and universities developed to take advantage of the openings provided by the neoliberal state to move toward the market.

The mechanisms identified by Slaughter and Rhoades (2004) persist: new circuits of knowledge that link state agencies, corporations, and universities in entrepreneurial research endeavors are developed; interstitial organizations emerge to manage market endeavor; intermediating networks between public, nonprofit, and private sectors are initiated by actors from the various sectors to stabilize the new circuits of knowledge and organizations that facilitate entrepreneurial activity on the part of universities. At the same time, universities build extended managerial capacity that enables them to function as economic actors. Slaughter and Cantwell make the case that although marketization is the EU is state-led to a greater degree than in the USA, state bureaucrats use the same mechanisms (described above) as in the USA and provide examples of these.

Slaughter and Cantwell also argue that new mechanisms emerged in both the USA and EU as marketization intensified. These are new funding streams, narratives, discourses, and social technologies. The recently created European Research Council (ERC) has provided an example of new funding streams. The ERC research funds are available for the European Research Area through the Seventh Framework. Over the period 2007–2013, the ERC awarded €7.5 billion in research grants. Investigators can win up to €2 million per grant, which may last up to 5 years (European Research Council 2008). Grants are made through two streams, one for advanced investigators and one for starting investigators who completed their Ph.D. within the last 9 years in life sciences, physical science and engineering, social sciences and humanities “domains.” The ERC (2007) prioritized projects in information technology, “innovative” medicine, nano-electronics, embedded systems, aeronautics and air transport, hydrogen and fuel cells, and global monitoring for the environment. As is the case in the USA, research funds are concentrated in STEM fields, and especially the biomedical sciences, although not so heavily.

The narratives and discourses in the USA and EU are somewhat different. In the USA, human capital was the higher education discourse that intersected broader competitiveness narratives. As is typical in the USA, the human capital narrative emphasized the role of the individual, thereby converting higher education into a private good (Becker 1964; Leslie and Brinkman 1988; McMahon 2009). Complementing human capital discourses were competitiveness narratives, which were initiated by corporate leaders and nonprofit think tanks in the 1980s (Slaughter 1990; Bruno 2009; Slaughter and Rhoades 2005) to deal with the stiff competition the US faced from Germany and Japan. Students’ investment in human capital was represented as serving not only individuals’ ends, but societal needs for a highly educated labor force to build a strong economy. In other words, societal goods were conceived of in economic terms, rather than social goods or social justice. Like human capital discourses, competitiveness narratives were also taken up by the intermediating organizations discussed above as well as by some university staff, some academic disciplines and some faculty, many of whom demonstrated their closeness to the market through publication, patenting, technology transfer, and product and technology innovation. The competitiveness and human capital narratives stress investment in education that contributes to productivity, economic growth, health, environmental issues, and national defense. These types of education create a “scientifically literate” population and are predicated on a workforce versed in STEM fields. The humanities, arts, and social science fields not concerned with social technologies are, by and large, not mentioned.

The Lisbon Agenda elaborated an EU competitiveness narrative. Using language of the academic capitalist knowledge/learning regime, the often-cited Lisbon Agenda aims were to make Europe the most competitive region in the world (European Commission 2000). Higher education was integral to the Lisbon Agenda, which calls for economic competitiveness through the interaction between the state, industry, and universities in networks of innovation driven by application and production of knowledge. Lisbon goals include expanding public and private funds for research and development, industry-university partnerships, establishing EU-wide networks of lifelong learning, and boosting tertiary participation, especially in science and technology fields. In 2006, the EC made the case that “European universities have enormous potential, but this potential is not fully harnessed and put to work effectively to underpin Europe’s drive for more growth and more jobs” (European Commission 2006, p. 3) and a detailed plan for “modernizing” Europe’s universities, which largely focused further market reforms, was announced.

Social technologies are used to steer university staff toward the market and track their activity in competition for external resources (Geuna and Martin 2003; Bruno 2009). For example, in the EU the Open Method of Coordination (OMC) turns the attention of faculty and fields to the narratives of competition by providing incentives designed to gently nudge professionals’ activities in line with policy goals. Faculty and staff progress in cooperation with industry is followed by tracking attainment of bench marks and success in rankings. (Some) social sciences provide the methods, theoretical frameworks, and concepts (which are simultaneously discourses and narratives themselves) for social technologies such as bibliometrics (the analysis of academic article citations), rankings and league tables, soft law (Pestre and Weingart 2009).

Narratives, discourses, and social technologies that justify and normalize competitive moves to the market are elaborated and articulated by all the players and deployed via social technologies. There is no particular order in which these phenomena occur. They can take place sequentially, simultaneously, independently, and always recursively. They explain how universities become marketized not only in science and engineering fields, but across a variety of fields.

Currently, Cantwell, Slaughter, and Taylor are analyzing mechanisms that promote marketization that continue to emerge. They are exploring the idea that different sets of actors are able to deploy these mechanisms in very different ways. They hypothesize that that despite academe’s commitment to meritocratic order, the ability for institutions and individuals to leverage entrepreneurial activity and status co-varies tightly with accumulated state, institutional, and individual professional wealth (as measured by salary, research dollars, publications, entrepreneurial endeavor).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Higher EducationThe University of GeorgiaAthensUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Pedro Nuno Teixeira
    • 1
  1. 1.Director CIPESMatosinhosPortugal