Liberalizing the Corporate University


This posting is an edited text of the Residential Colleges Professorial Lecture I delivered at the University of Southern Queensland on August 6, 2014. For which, I was flattered to be asked. The lecture was intend to describe the nature of the corporatized university and the impact on traditional university values including the rights and responsibilities conferred through academic freedom. The central point of the lecture was that openness is perhaps the best means of recapturing the liberal nature of university values in part because the openness agenda has developed within the context of neoliberal economics as a counter-balance to the self-censorship adopted and imposed by many universities and scholars.

My apologies for the length of this posting, but it did not seem to make sense to break it into smaller separate postings.  I would like to thank and acknowledge all of those in the Residential Colleges at the University of Southern Queensland who provided me the opportunity to deliver this lecture. This includes the significant number of students who patiently listened in full academic regalia, and who subsequently asked a number of excellent, insightful, and challenging questions.
The following is the edited text included in the lecture…


Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Members of the University Council, members of the vice chancellor’s committee, distinguished guests, good colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, and perhaps most importantly USQ teachers and students. I am very pleased to be here this evening to deliver the 2014 Residential Colleges Professorial Lecture.
During the next 40 to 50 minutes, I will take some time to talk about the nature and changing nature of the university, its purposes, what it is, has been, and is becoming.  Hopefully creating some interest in discussing these topics.
You may expect, based on the title of this lecture, I will talk a bit about higher education. Although some of the references used in this lecture are from the US and Canada, the trends discussed are common to higher education in liberal and distributive democracies with mature market economies. In addition, there is currently a lot of discussion and questioning about public education policy reform in Australia that may lead our higher education down a path taken in the US and Canada three decades ago.
This path has led us to the corporatization of university culture.


Photo of Dean Corrigan
Image of Dean Corrigan, Texas A&M Photo Archive

I am going to start by taking a few minutes to tell a short story to illustrate a point. While engaged in doctoral work at Texas A&M University, I had the very good fortune to work closely with Professor Dean Corrigan. Dean, which incidentally is Professor Corrigan’s first name, had served as dean of three colleges of education including those at the University of Vermont, the University of Maryland, and Texas A&M University, where I met him.

He was in many ways an exceptional personality, well liked and effective, in a challenging role that has historically bridged representing the interests of academics in the disciplines with those of university administration.

I am telling this story because it might sound very quaint and naive now – in fact it almost sounds out of place and irrelevant given the current state and focus of many universities. In retrospect though, it represents a fundamental statement about the nature of the university – its purpose and what it was.

What follows this story is about what the university has become, why this is so, and how I think that we can restore some balance.

I had worked as a research associate in a small research centre at Texas A&M University named “Commitment to Education,” which Dean founded and led after passing on his role as dean and returning to the faculty.

One day, while Dean and I were working through a stack of papers he stopped and referred to the seal of the Texas A&M College of Education, and started describing the conversation that ensued as the college faculty designed the seal.

The seal was fundamentally two hands positioned around a flame. Apparently, as Dean explained it, the seal was the subject of considerable debate while it was being designed, which continued long after the seal was adopted.

The questions that it raised were whether, education, as represented by the outstretched hands was protecting the flames or whether the hands were being warmed by the flames, which represented truth.

Dean confided that he always maintain that it was both and this symbolism and interpretation strikes at the civilising role of education and the purpose of the university.

No place else, was truth more central to an organisation and in no other organisation was the preservation and pursuit of truth more central to purpose.

And no place else in a society that values truth is there a more important role than that of the university and its commitment to liberal education.

The debate that Dean described had been echoed a thousand times in thousands of universities for hundreds of years. And through these conversations, influenced by the ascendance of reason and enlightenment, the rise of the nation state, liberal and distributive democracy, industrialization, civil society, and the knowledge economy, the contemporary university has taken shape.

The University carved out its role in society as purveyor of truth, in part as archivist, and transmitter, but perhaps most importantly by preparing at first men and later women to discover the truth, to develop it as knowledge, and to promote it, which has not always been a welcome, popular, or safe role.

These conversations in universities and the roles that universities have taken, has led to a tension between the need for the university to both remove itself from society for some measure of objectivity, and to embrace its role within society and ensure its relevance.

And it is through the purpose of the university and the tensions it creates that its odd structures and its formal governance has developed, but perhaps most importantly, it is through its most serious work, that the notion of academic freedom has taken shape.

As inferred above, the university is a special place. Although many think about universities as centres of radical politics, this reputation was earned by a handful of politically active scholars during the 30s and 40s and by student activists during a relatively short period of time in the 1960s and 1970s. It is probably more accurately thought of as a place that harbours radical or free thinkers.

Take a look at what I am wearing, and think about the procession that you were part of earlier this evening. It is part of a culture that speaks to just how profoundly conservative
universities are as institutions. They are meant to transmit the past and they are built to remember, they are meant to pursue truth and to do so responsibly no matter how unpopular or inconvenient that truth is.

Part of that responsibility adds to the conservative and deliberative nature of discovery and teaching, which is highly ordered, but by some standards outside of the University, and now perhaps inside the university as well, profoundly inefficient and too patient.


Fundamentally, the university is a place, and perhaps the only place, whereby design the questions we ask are more important than the answers we create. We might suggest that this is true for all types of education and perhaps for life more generally, and that I believe would be true.
But we can see that universities have a special love for the questions that are not evident in any other type of organisation.
For example, we can see this play out in the differences between the structures and rationale for corporate organisations and educational organisations. Although asking questions is an important activity in some corporations, the delivery of answers is generally speaking much more important and, more specifically, the delivery of commercializable answers is paramount.
After all, it is not questions that directly increase the wealth of equity holders, it is answered with a market value that most corporate officers, owners, and governments are after.
The corporate rationale leads to a rather focused set of questions that are allowed to be asked and a particular approach of getting to them, which tends to be guided by ensuring that the monetary value of new knowledge is maximised. This frequently results in closed discovery processes with limited participation and a relatively narrow field of inquiry filtered by ROI.
And, I would argue that this is how it should be in corporations. For-profit corporations, operating within the letter and spirit of the law and exercising reasonable ethical discretion, should focus on value generation measured in return on investment to equity holders.
Like most here, I have a variety of individual and pooled investments in which I expect a reasonable financial return. I also expect these companies to pay taxes on their profits to the government, that reinvests in many things, including public higher education.
I will note that none of my financial investments are in universities – that is not the purpose of a university, which might be why we intuitively see a conflict in the very notion of a for-profit university, but not in a for-profit training centre delivering, for example, Microsoft certification, physical training, or auto driving lessons. We think of these types of education as fundamentally commercial in nature.
You see, the university, on the other hand historically has a role in which the growth of knowledge and the pursuit of truth, as opposed to profit, are the principal objectives of the questions, influencing the ways that we seek answers, the ways that we disseminate our questions and answers, and how we structure our organisations.
I depend on universities to ask questions in pursuit of truth, add value through preparing students to engage in the vibrant and critical discussions necessary for deliberative and liberal democracy and engage the disciplines and society. For this, I do not turn to Rio Tinto, IBM, Westpac, Apple, Woolworths, Google, or Telstra.
To further illustrate the differences, think for a moment about the differences between the purposes and ways that for-profit companies engage in executive training and preparation and the purposes and ways that universities prepare professors to teach and research. Think of the values that are promoted, the enculturation into organisational life, and the means through which one is prepared for practice.


Image of a conversation
Political Discussion, Emile Friant

If asking questions is an essential value, then we must assume that so is conversation, because asking provocative and important questions is an important part of stimulating engagement and thinking, and conversation is a principal form of engagement.

I am currently reviewing a collection of writings by Bartlett Giamatti, produced while he served as president of Yale University. For Giamatti the university is conversation.

It is important to note that he does not choose to define the university as an institution in which conversations happen, or as a place friendly to conversations, or that it is a place that incites conversation – although it clearly has these qualities. Instead, he defines the university as a conversation.

This conversation happens over time, between students and teachers, among academics, and between academics and the public. For the conversation to flourish, for scholars to engage, they must be free to behave as academics with rights, and with those rights observance of responsibilities.

Academic inquiry requires the right to pursue lines of inquiry in pursuit of truth and the right to express questions, and disseminate findings under prevailing standards of scholarship.

Acting always with integrity and occasionally with courage, the academic scholar should never fear loss of employment or discrimination due to asking important and perhaps unpopular questions and disseminating their knowledge.

This is why the rights and responsibilities associated with academic freedom tend to be tied to tenure. I mention this simply because most members of the public do not understand the nature of tenure and the reasons it exists, while many in popular media are willing to comment negatively while cloaked in their own ignorance.


Academic freedom is an essential construct at the contemporary university that allows the university to pursue truth and remain an embedded part of society. Briefly, academic freedom as expressed through peak professional associations of the “professoriate” in Canada, the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand are aligned on a few important points.

  • Members of the professoriate have rights of free inquiry and expression. There are reciprocal responsibilities one of which is that inquiry and expression rise to the scholarly standards within their disciplines.
  • Professors have the right to free private expression, but if speaking outside of their field of expertise, they need to make that clear and to not misuse the authority of their discipline or the university.
  • The pursuit of truth and the dissemination of their knowledge ought to be made in ways that are open and maximise the public good.  And the exercise of these responsibilities should not be curtailed by personal, organizational, or commercial considerations.

Although specific points about academic freedom are further developed in formal statements, it is these points that help ensure that professors are acting within the norms of the discipline and university ensuring that they earn and deserve the trust of their peers and the public.


The notion of what the university is, is also worth talking about, because once again, it is not as clear cut as it is in corporations.

Image of Ernst Kantorowicz
Ernst Kantorowicz, Courtesy of Frankfort am Main City Library

While making this point, let me tell you a little story and in doing so quote Ernst Kantorowicz, who in the early 1950’s was at the centre of a loyalty oath controversy at the University of California where he served as a professor. Through this story, we can see how the University is perhaps something different from many other organisations.

Dr. Kantorowicz refused to sign a loyalty oath for at least two general reasons. First, but not foremost, oaths have an insidious way of restraining inquiry and speech.
Second, although Kantorowicz acknowledged that the State of California had the authority to demand oath signing of its employees, including those in the university, it did not have the authority to ask it of the professoriate. To this second point, Kantorowicz asserts that…

There are three professions which are entitled to wear a gown: the judge, the priest, the scholar. This garment stands for its bearer’s maturity of mind, his independence of judgment, and his direct responsibility to his conscience and to his God. It signifies the inner sovereignty of those three interrelated professions: they should be the very last to allow themselves to act under duress and yield to pressure.  

It is a shameful and undignified action, it is an affront and a violation of both human sovereignty and professional dignity that the Regents of this University have dared to bully the bearer of this gown into a situation in which–under the pressure of a bewildering economic coercion- he is compelled to give up either his tenure or, together with his freedom of judgment, his human dignity and his responsible sovereignty as a scholar. 

Why is it so absurd to visualize the Supreme Court justices picketing their court, bishops picketing their churches, and professors picketing their university? 

The answer is very simple: because the judges are the Court, the ministers together with the faithful are the Church, and the professors together with the students are the University. Unlike ushers, sextons, and beadles, the judges, ministers, and professors are not Court employees, Church employees, and University employees. They are those institutions themselves, and therefore they have certain prerogative rights to and within their institutions which ushers, sextons, and beadles or janitors do not have.

The point here is that in the university professors and students are fundamentally different from employees working for and contributing to the university, they are the thing itself. They stand outside of the employer-employee relationship, and ultimately it is the thing that must regulate itself. At least at some level, this is to help ensure the objectivity to pursue the truth.


So, now that we have taken a little time to identify some of the special characteristics of universities, we might ask what is the purpose of a university.
Although Universities need some separation from government, industry, and popular culture to engage in their unique role, the university is part of greater society and must accommodate the changing nature of the society in which it exists.
There are historic ideals and contemporary realities. It is worth noting that universities rarely lived up to the historic ideals that they aspired to, but the important thing is that they are ideals worth considering and pursuing.
At the same time, it is equally important to note that most universities are not entirely comfortable with the realities that they are currently facing.


Growth of Knowledge

The purpose of the university is an elusive topic. It will depend on who you ask and frankly when it is
being considered. In my opinion, the motto of the University of Chicago is a convenient starting point.

Let knowledge grow from more to more, and thus be human life enriched.

Which I think provides a great starting place. First, we note that there is a clearly stated objective with only one qualification. The purpose of a university is to grow knowledge and through its growth, the university helps to enrich human life.
I am also left with the opportunity to define knowledge, and I would do so quite broadly. Knowledge is what we know. As such, it is dynamic, personal, and value-laden. It informs our attitudes and includes the ways that we interpret knowledge, information, and data.
It is through what we know that we develop values, identify with morality, and interpret and make decisions about our world. In effect, it is through our knowledge that we experience self-knowledge, opening the potential for enlightenment.
So, in some regard, knowledge cannot be directly transmitted, it can only be discovered, which ties together teaching and research in ways that are fundamental. Research, as we commonly think of it is a set of activities designed to discover new things that can then be known. It is through these discoveries that research results in the growth of knowledge.
Teaching shares a common ambition to research, but it is not focused externally. Instead, the teaching activities are intended to support personal discovery of knowledge that is already known by some, perhaps the teacher. During teaching-acts information may be transmitted and data may be represented, but it is not the knowledge that is transmitted. It is through study that knowledge is developed and the mind renewed.
In any case, whether through research, teaching, practice, or integration, knowledge can be grown, and from its growth, human life enriched.
And it is here that the notion that a university must participate in both research and teaching becomes obvious. It is the “new discoveries” that keep the public stockpile of knowledge viable and allow for teaching to take place and it is through teaching that new ideas are challenged and evolved through the creativity of learners and teachers.
A new discovery may be made in a laboratory or it may be made in the mind of a solitary scholar reading a book. The fallacy is that research and teaching can be separate activities. That education is the transmission and cataloguing of information. And that the principal purpose of the university is anything other than the pursuit of truth.


Contemporary perspectives of the purposes of a higher education are shifting and have been doing so rather substantively since the 1980s in the US, and perhaps more notably more recently here in Australia.
There has been a clear trend expressed in public higher education policy, public opinion, and the opinion of students, that higher education is more of a private good than a public good and its value is measured by income upon graduation.
If this is the purpose of the university then our outcomes are maximized personal wealth for our graduates, dollars generated through commercialisation of research discoveries, growth in revenue and profit generated from student enrolments, GDP for the nation, and revenues for the public taxation office. The university is defined and assessed like any other contributor to the national financial wealth value chain.
The discussion, even at a high level, is not about the growth of knowledge for the sake of enriching human life, but to ensure national competitiveness, by providing employability skills, and commercialising our research discoveries.
I am in no way being critical, these are normal responses to current political and environmental conditions, and they do lead us to adopt a posture less like a community of scholars and more like a for-profit company or a government agency. A condition that will be difficult to unwind.


Environment / Conditions

Corporatisation has been a trend with impact much broader than higher education and is part of much broader societal conditions.
It may be argued that corporatisation of public functions is desirable and that the university’s response has generally been acceptable – at least reasonable and expected.
After all, the university does not stand outside of society, it must respond to its environment.  Some of the conditions that the university has had to respond to include…
  • Historic Reduction in Public Support, leading to increased costs for students, enhanced debt in many cases, and a real need to generate additional income to service debt. But beyond this simple economic logic, when the discussion is almost entirely about higher education’s purpose is to lead to financial rewards, there is a natural inclination to exclude other considerations while maximising the one criteria that seems to be valued.
  • Demand for Increasing Access, which increased the impulse for university administrators to view education as a commodity and students as customers.
  • Outcomes Expectations of the Public, Funders, and Graduates, are shifting to focus almost exclusively on financial returns, which creates a consumer logic in which there is a quantitative expectation of return, and where education is seen as something one either has or does-not-have based on a certification, rather than education being something that one does throughout their lives.
  • Increasing Emphasis on the “Knowledge Economy,” which contributes to the demand for increased access, but also points to the failings of current university structures and curriculum, leading to reliance on a market logic to validate knowledge produced at the university.
  • Information, Communication, Technology (changing cost structures, access, and methods for creating knowledge and distributing information), has created an information and content culture, shifting the role of the university and placing it in the information and knowledge network, in direct competition with other types of knowledge producers and transmitters, most of which are more efficient than universities.


The contemporary framing of the university taken together with the environmental conditions in which universities operate has resulted in a “Corporatisation” of the university. Corporatisation is the process of transforming public assets into private assets and transforming government agencies and organisations into corporations, or at least organisations with structures that are like those typically found in corporations.
When the government retains financial and regulatory interest, there is a melding of public and private organisation that we see occurring in the university. In many ways, this is at least in part the march started during the Reagan/Thatcher administrations, and to a lesser extent a decade later the Howard administration in Australia toward privatisation.

Although the corporatized entity may not perform as a for-profit company, it will also be forced to change its norms to survive, which is happening in many public and private universities.  For example,

  • A university education is increasingly being seen principally as a private good rather than a public good, and in doing so devaluing those disciplines that do not maximise the private good.
  • There is reduced public funding and a shifting of cost burden from the public to private interest. (State to Student)
  • We see a move from a liberal education (humanist) to a professional education (commercial).
  • There is a move from producing public knowledge to focusing on and valuing proprietary knowledge.
  • There has been a move in some countries from full-time tenure/tenure track (permanent) to fixed-term and adjunct (contingent) academic staff, shifting the locus of control from decentralised faculty governance to administrative decision-making.
  • There has been a shift from traditional forms of capitalisation such as tuition, fees, development, and public allocation, to those more typical of private enterprise such as commercialisation of inventions, commercial out-sourcing arrangements to other institutions, raising capital through large bond issues, and venture capital arrangements for “spin-off” companies.

Intended Consequences

We have embraced a number of the consequences of corporatisation and some universities have prospered by doing so quickly and creatively.
  • For some universities online and continuing education was developed in units isolated from the university proper to better perform as a revenue positive activity much as a corporation.
  • The market logic tends to increase access potential and promote development of services that are “customer” oriented. We have seen this as universities…
    • Deliver academic products based in customer demand, at levels that optimise financial reward for the university and potentially for the student graduate.
    • Direct marketing to populations, developing a culture of consumerism and perhaps a commodification of education and knowledge.
    • Turning toward international students, that represent higher than normal net positive revenue flows.
    • Focus on activities that lead to commercialisation beyond tuition generated for teaching and research training, which frequently requires the production of proprietary knowledge, The logic is increasing applied to both research and course materials.

Unintended Consequences

Although there are consequences that have been embraced and applauded in a variety of public circles, there are a number of consequences that have gone unnoticed or at least do not get very much attention.
One might suggest that corporatisation tends to place limits on the conversation to those ideas that a) are consistent with a market logic and b) consistent with the directions and attitudes of university administrators, in effect impacting on the practice of the rights accorded through academic freedom.
The two principal freedoms with rights and responsibilities are those of inquiry and expression. Both of which are impacted by corporatization.
The freedom of inquiry may be compromised directly by corporate and venture capital interest that direct attention to particular fields of study, whole employment markets more generally indirectly determine which disciplines are worth teaching. Freedom of expression is compromised through the proprietarization of academic knowledge, and self-censorship due to financial entanglement with commercial interests, impeding the growth of knowledge that is an obligation of the university professoriate.

Freedom of Inquiry

  • Corporations (including venture capital) direct fields of discovery
  • Employment Markets determine disciplines worth teaching

Freedom of Expression

  • Proprietary Information
  • Financial Entanglement
So, is this something to be concerned about?
One can argue that corporatisation is a natural transition for contemporary universities. That being said, we really must ask ourselves if we are giving-up things that need to be preserved.
Are there things that the university does, are there societal roles, and are there contributions that promote values we hold closely in a democracy, perhaps that are necessary to a democracy?
Do we contribute in important ways to national conversations with civility? Do we provide a
necessary counter balance to government political agendas or corporate commercial agendas? Do we provide the patience that others seem to lack?
Is there a need for an institution to be dedicated, not only to scholarship leading to commercialize-able invention, but to the growth of knowledge and pursuit of truth, no matter how inconvenient, embarrassing, challenging, or unpopular?
Does the ascendance of the corporate university threaten the integrity of the university by undermining some of its core principles, structures, and behavioural norms?
Perhaps in anticipation of these types of questions, we see safeguards, or perhaps warnings, in the revised statement on academic freedom of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. Which includes, responsibilities for…
University leadership:
  • It is a major responsibility of university governing bodies and senior officers to protect and promote academic freedom. This includes ensuring that funding and other partnerships do not interfere with autonomy in deciding what is studied and how.
  • Faculty members and university leaders have an obligation to ensure that students’ human rights are respected and that they are encouraged to pursue their education according to the principles of academic freedom.
  • Faculty also share with university leadership the responsibility of ensuring that pressures from funding and other types of partnerships do not unduly influence the intellectual work of the university.
Is corporatisation of the university a threat to academic freedom, and if so, is that a concern?
So, yes, I think that we should be concerned.
I think that we should be concerned that the core values of academic freedom with the rights and responsibilities that it entails are under threat. They are essential for a university to balance education for employment, citizenship, and change.
And yes, I do think that the corporate university is a hostile environment for the exercise of academic freedom – both the rights and the responsibilities.
And, by extension, I believe that the corporate university is a hostile place for liberal education and the academic pursuit of truth as a guiding principle for knowledge development, discovery, and teaching.
And yes, I do think that we need to get creative and do so quickly if we want to preserve our ability to integrate liberal and professional education in ways that are not superficial or that trivialise our educational objectives.


Now finally, to my central point. We cannot address problems created in the context of corporatisation in contemporary universities with solutions from the past.
Simply adopting a “great books” curriculum will not work.
Neither will quoting inspirational thinkers from the past; or wishing for a return to progressivism.
We cannot ask scholars to exercise academic freedom when the university expects them to sign confidentiality, nondisclosure, and non-compete agreements.
We need to think in terms of our current environment to identify trends that had developed in the same environment and under the same conditions at the corporate university.


Given our needs, perhaps the most relevant intellectual, social, political, and economic development in the past 30 years has been the evolution of the openness agenda.
I would argue that its application in practice, may balance corporatization to allow for academic freedom in the contemporary university.
At the very least the discussion will offer options for university communities to decide on what type of university they want to have, and provide a language for development and pathways for practice.
Although notions of open practice have existed almost forever, the term “Open Source Software” was coined in 1998 to describe the production of intellectual assets in the form of software applying an “open license.” Many believe that it is through open licensing and the commitment to “free cultural works,” that communities function best to create valuable knowledge and information.
Open Educational Practice is perhaps the most important development in higher education during the past decade. OEP includes Open Education Resources (OER), Open Access publishing (OA), Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), open policy, open textbooks, open data, open technology standards, open metadata, open file formats, open research, and more broadly open education.
The movement has resulted in dozens of education collaboratives, millions of resources, new business models, Massive Open Online Course (MOOCs), micro Open Online Courses (mOOCs), and an explosion of alternative higher education organisations.
Ok, so we have established that innovation can be generated through open resources and open culture, which is pretty good, but the next bit is probably more interesting.
In addition, dozens of state and national governments have pledged commitments to open public resources, as have dozens of international agencies including UNESCO in its 2012 Paris OER Declaration, while a number of public funding agencies and philanthropic foundations have mandated that whenever their funding is used, all resulting intellectual property will be made available under an open distribution license.
To ignore these trends, along with the reported savings to students that come along with the adoption of OER, is to ignore the three principal sources of educational funding globally for teaching and research: public support, philanthropic support, and student financial contribution through payment of tuition and fees.
Like academic freedom, for openness to flourish in practice, the university must hold and practice a variety of values and principles.  Borrowing from the Openness Index project, among them are
  • Courage: Participating even when doing so results in fear and uncertainty.
  • Participation:  The action of taking part in something (being there). The nature of one’s participation is dictated by its quality.
  • Honesty: The quality of behaving in a manner that is free of deceit, is truthful, and is sincere.
  • Reflection (assessment): Engaging in serious thought or consideration about oneself and one’s motivations, behaviors, and impacts.
  • Humility: Practicing honest reflection with the discipline necessary to achieve a clear perspective, and therefore respect, for one’s place in context.
  • Communication: Sharing information through a variety of means. Transparency is a pre-condition for open communication.
  • Transparency: Providing access to information in a manner making it easy to perceive, detect, and understand.
  • Self-organization: When coordination arises out of the local interactions between individuals and groups of individuals of an initially disordered grouping.
  • Collaboration: Voluntarily working with each other to accomplish a task and to achieve shared goals.
  • Evidence-based decision-making: The explicit (and transparent), conscientious, and judicious consideration of the best available evidence and decision-making methodology.
  • Meritocracy: An organisational system or philosophy in which ideas are judged based on their merit, as opposed to a proxy, such as the title of the individual offering the idea.
Although there are a range of benefits that open education practice brings to the university, including promotion of social justice, the potential to reduce costs of study for students, reduced risk of copyright violation, and for this lecture the most important point is that open educational practice supports a culture of respect for the traditions of the academy.
We might ask how the values just listed align with those embedded in academic freedom.
  • Openness is a fundamental tenant of academic freedom and is a responsibility for the academy and the professoriate, striking at the very purpose of the university and its singular role in free societies.
  • As such it gives voice to a logic that challenges neoliberal approaches to university education that has led to corporatisation.
  • Giving reasoned voice to alternatives creates the opportunity for discussion and the possibility of weighing values and commitments within a framework that refers to the fundamental purposes of the university.
  • It opens us to seek solutions allowing the university to thrive within the realities of a contemporary setting, while also supporting a logic that preserves the unique role of the university.
Seriously discussing and adopting a posture conducive to openness will take some fortitude. The culture of the corporatized university is strong and well embedded in most universities.
Neoliberal economic logic is consistent with everything we are being told is valued by our governments, learners, university corporate leaders, and others participating in our environment.
That being said, openness has been an agenda well received in many powerful circles including the public sector, the philanthropic sector, the agile and creative business sectors.
Contemporary universities need to engage and consider the impact that corporatisation and openness have on our cultures and our ability to do what no other organisations are uniquely meant to do.


A Primer on Neoliberalism

The Loyalty Oath Controversy, University of California

Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada revised statement on academic freedom

Understanding Free Cultural Works

What is the Paris OER Declaration?

The 2-3-98 Project, Openness Index

Liberalizing the Corporate Universtity. by Ken Udas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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