Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Changing Times in Academia

The world of higher education is not what it used to be - Malcolm Harris' Bad Education in n+1 looks at the massive levels of student debt, the rise of the administrative class, and the push towards capital projects above quality of instruction. Harris has some damning words indeed for the current state of academia:
The goal for large state universities and elite private colleges alike has ceased to be (if it ever was) building well-educated citizens; now they hardly even bother to prepare students to assume their places among the ruling class. Instead we have, in Bousquet’s words, “the entrepreneurial urges, vanity, and hobbyhorses of administrators: Digitize the curriculum! Build the best pool/golf course/stadium in the state! Bring more souls to God! Win the all-conference championship!” These expensive projects are all part of another cycle: corporate universities must be competitive in recruiting students who may become rich alumni, so they have to spend on attractive extras, which means they need more revenue, so they need more students paying higher tuition. For-profits aren’t the only ones consumed with selling product. And if a humanities program can’t demonstrate its economic utility to its institution (which can’t afford to haul “dead weight”) and students (who understand the need for marketable degrees), then it faces cuts, the neoliberal management technique par excellence. Students apparently have received the message loud and clear, as business has quickly become the nation’s most popular major.
What makes things tough for schools of music is that, in an era of ever larger class sizes, they still can't turn out musicians with any level of quality without dozens of hours of individual instruction with an experienced teacher. That in itself may doom schools of music to the academic ghetto in the future.

Students, faculty, admin: what are your experiences with the changing nature of academia? As always, feel free to post anonymously in case you're worried about never working again.

1 comment:

  1. It seems as if things are as they ever were. I'm reading Earl Wild's massive memoirs which have a central chapter on his teaching experiences at Juilliard and various university faculties. At one such he found that the piano majors were only getting 45 minutes per week of instruction, and this was often handed off to assistants rather than to the tenured names. Even then music programs were quick to be cut back from those bare bones.