Academic journal article Social Alternatives

The Economies of Engagement: The Nature of University Engagement in the Corporate University

Academic journal article Social Alternatives

The Economies of Engagement: The Nature of University Engagement in the Corporate University

Article excerpt

University engagement provides the focus for this paper. With attention given to recent, dramatic changes to the landscape of higher education and the effects that the corporatisation of universities has exerted on the everyday actions of academics, this paper will suggest that university to industry/community engagement has become a new terrain upon which the workings of the corporate university gain currency. Although university engagement is by no means a new phenomenon, new formulations of what it constitutes have emerged in recent years. The concept of the economies-of-engagement will be suggested as a conceptual cue for these considerations, with a case example of the author's experiences of engaging with a local government industry partner providing the basis for the consideration of the translation that featured as a central aspect of this engagement.

Framed by reconsiderations of the place and purpose of the university within wider public spheres, the question of how the university should engage has emerged in recent years as a prominent theme of discussion both within and beyond the academy. Read against a backdrop of increased expectation for accountability and the unprecedented regulation of higher education systems in many countries (OECD 2013), the value of the university to societal and industry concerns has been drawn into sharp focus, with emphasis given to the utility that academic pursuits might hold within globalised knowledge economies (Watermeyer 2012; Deem et al. 2007; Kerr 2001; Nossal 1997). These arguments draw from rationalist logics, and in keeping with viewpoints oriented by what has been designated as 'neoliberalism', position the purpose and structure of the university in predominantly economic terms. The outcomes of this reframing include the operation of universities as corporate entities, decreased (and decreasing) public expenditure on universities and higher education, and corollary increased reliance on private income sources and the often-uneasy arrangements with corporate sponsorship that these bring (OECD 2013; Marginson 2000).

One prominent demonstration of the workings of the contemporary, corporate university is seen with engagement. Whether termed outreach, community engagement, university-community partnership, stakeholder collaboration or permutations of these and similar other terms, the form that engagement has taken in the contemporary university provides a demonstration of the ways universities conceive of themselves as valuable public institutions. The measures underpinning this value, however, remain somewhat more vague and when considered in light of the stark and largely economic bases that have driven university reform in many countries in recent years, the core intentions underpinning university engagement initiatives remain difficult to ascertain. This paper will explore the dynamics of this seeming rush to engagement, and in doing so will highlight the pressures brought to bear on the contemporary university and those publics toward whom the engagement is targeted.

Value and the University

Although recent reformulations of the value-proposition of the university have positioned the economics of higher education as a principal measure of value, the realignment of what it is the university might deliver as a public good within this dynamic provides an interesting counter-point to older views of the university as existing in and of (and in some senses for) itself; an untouchable institution of repute and prestige functioning outside of the concerns of economics and societal strictures (Clark 1987). As a site of knowledge production, universities globally have been under pressure to explicate what purposes they might serve, how the products of academic labour might find value and ultimately, what returns on public investment they might generate. Older views of the university existing simply as a site of knowledge maintenance and production (Burnes et al. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.