Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

Academic Capitalism and Doctoral Student Socialization: A Case Study

Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

Academic Capitalism and Doctoral Student Socialization: A Case Study

Article excerpt

In the last two and a half decades, the U.S. government has fostered cooperation between industries and universities in order to cope with funding gaps and global competitive markets by introducing a number of laws and programs that allow universities to patent their research and to engage in collaborations with the private sector toward opportunities in the new economy (Altbach, 2005; Slaughter & Leslie, 1997; Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004, 2005). Under this scenario, research universities have become a source of national wealth development through applied research rather than primarily a means for liberal education of undergraduates and warfare research (Gumport, 2005; Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004, 2005). At the turn of the 21st century, these initiatives have fostered entrepreneurialism in science and engineering fields through a variety of interdisciplinary centers and partnerships with the private sector around new technologies derived from disciplines such as biotechnology, materials science, optical science, and cognitive science. This entrepreneurialism in certain fields is based on the premise that faculty have the primary responsibility for obtaining their own research funds and running their own laboratories (Etzkowitz, 1999). In addition, research in these applied disciplines is usually expensive and depends heavily on external funds, which opens the way for political and commercial intervention (Becher, 1989). Based on these trends, Slaughter and Leslie (1997) defined academic capitalism as the marketlike behaviors on the part of faculty and academic institutions in order to seek alternative sources of funding.

Graduate Education in Light of Academic Capitalism

Gluck (1987) and Slaughter, Campbell, Hollernan, and Morgan (2002) conducted the only two empirical studies that have been designed to study the impact of academic capitalism on graduate students. Gluck (1987) revealed that the financial support of students by biotechnology firms brings a variety of educational benefits such as networking opportunities, funding, and valuable interactions with industrial representatives. However, other studies, focused on faculty members, have raised concerns related to the adequacy of training of graduate assistants who are working with industry representatives (e.g., Campbell & Slaughter, 1999; Slaughter & Leslie, 1997; Slaughter et al., 2002). Today, in the new global social-economic arena, graduate students have become valuable labor for industry representatives in those fields where academic capitalism is significant (Slaughter et al., 2002). This tendency has been facilitated by graduate students' valuable research skills for the new demands of the global market, and, as a consequence, industry representatives have supported graduate students through assistantships (Slaughter et al., 2002). However, in a more recent study, Slaughter, Archerd, and Campbell (2004) found that professors understood that graduate students were cheap labor but valued them primarily as apprentices and future colleagues. Other arguments found in the literature against graduate training through industry partnerships include the type of values indirectly transmitted through applied projects. For example, graduate students involved in industry-sponsored programs might be less likely to be encouraged to think about problems that benefit the public or problems that are unlikely to result in profits (Gumport, 2005).

Graduate students are knowledgeable, bright, and inexpensive labor, and can therefore be targets of potential exploitation. As disclosure and patenting increase, concern has grown about the timely publication of graduate students' work due to intellectual property secrecy of doctoral dissertations that might be alternatives to patents. For graduate students eager to work with industry, patenting could represent an opportunity for networking, experience, and credentials; for a student who aspires to an academic career, however, publication delays represent a serious obstacle and a betrayal. …

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