Future University in Present Times: Autonomy, Governance and the Entrepreneurial University**

By Ibarra-Colado, Eduardo | Management Revue, April 1, 2007 | Go to article overview

Future University in Present Times: Autonomy, Governance and the Entrepreneurial University**


Ibarra-Colado, Eduardo, Management Revue


The paper discusses the main challenges confronted by Mexican government agencies and universities to deal with the model implemented since the late 1980s in the context of neoliberalism and globalization. Such challenges are associated with the tendencies observed at three levels. First, the transformation of the sense and content of the autonomy regime of the university and its legal principles. Secondly, the emergence of governance as a strategic condition to perform institutional ends and projects in a market driven context. Finally, the gradual conformation of the entrepreneurial university under new organizational arrangements through which it is trying to perform their functions effectively and legitimately to fulfill current market and economic demands. The paper concludes by discussing some alternative arrangements, thus advocating the transformation of the university system in order to confront the challenges resulting from new emerging contexts, but without abandoning its commitment to social development and equity and its historical role as a main cultural institution for society.

Key words: Globalization, Autonomy, Governance, Participation

Introduction

Concepts like "accountability" and "efficiency" represents the current condition of modernity as a mode of existence based on management of one and all aspects of social life. These concepts indicate that the universalisation of modernity is already done, shaping a system in which the "conduct of conducts" of institutions and individuals are operated by the application of abstract rules to certificate the "normal" behavior. The current condition of modernity, then, is based on surveillance and distrust (Power 1997).

In Foucault terms, society is living in the stage of governmentality (Foucault 2003a, 2003b), in which the goals of human action are defined and controlled by the State in accordance with economic power, but the definition of the means is increasingly in hands of institutions and individuals. The system operates by bureaucratic unpersonalized technologies to steering from a distance, so it can guarantee that each conduct, although the existence of some degree of freedom, will fit with the standard. This new mode of existence was built during the last three decades or so, and it is associated with the emergence and generalization of neoliberalism and globalization (Ibarra-Colado 2006a).

This is the scenario of the recent transformations of the university in countries like Mexico; it is a radical process of change that has implied the redefinition of its institutional meaning and role to fulfill the needs of markets and the economy. The deepness of this change and the social conflicts it entails can be appreciated when consider the role played by the university in Mexico, an institution that emerged as a social institution representing the Mexican Revolution ideals of justice, equity and social progress. In this ideological context, education has been considered a social right, and knowledge a public good that should not be privately appropriated. The university is a social institution that has been functioning for a long time as the basic cultural reference point of society.

To characterize this process, it is necessary to go back to the 1960s, since then there was a clear awareness of the expansion and gradual diversification of higher education. It is also important to remember the efforts in institutional reorganization implemented based on legislative reforms from the late 1970s. In fact, those reforms were an indispensable condition for implementing the modernization of the university system a decade later. Without those elements, it would be difficult to understand the radical nature of the changes carried out during the 1990s. They encompassed almost every aspect of higher education, incorporating new practices and modes of coordination and conduction of the university system which, in turn, have encouraged the creation of competitive mechanisms for regulating university budgets, the payment of academic staff and the assignment of resources for science and other institutional programs (Ibarra-Colado 2001; see also 2003: 325-437). …

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