By Leslie Chin-Ting
Where do you go to school, and why did you choose the school that you went to? Think back to when you were in grade 12 thinking about going to university and what program you wanted to go into, what were some of the things that influenced your decision to go to a particular institution? The issue that I will be looking at in higher education is branding of education, and education as a business.
Higher education was once thought of as somewhere where you could explore thinking; you could reach and explore higher levels of thinking and reasoning. It was seen as a place “that nurtured ideas and innovations, built the morals of its students, and contributed to democracy through producing political and social leaders” (Natale & Doran, 2012. p. 188). In recent years, however, the way higher education is viewed has changed; universities and colleges are now seen in terms of brands; competing business that are there to provide services to their shareholders (parents and students).
The issue: The changing focus of higher education
Higher Education is still about the learning and developing a higher level of reasoning and thinking – or is it moving more towards who has the most graduates, who can produce the most workers, and reputation? Higher education institutes are moving away from the notion of grassroots ideas, innovation, and building free thinking individuals who are looking to make a change in our democracy. Rather, because of the financial and societal demands, institutions are shifting towards more of a business model. In this sense, higher education views students as “revenue streams and colleges to businesses” (Natale & Doran, 2012. p. 187). Institutions are constantly in competition with other institutions to develop their “brand” to try and lure unsuspecting high schoolers; this begs to question what are we really paying for, for education?
Higher education in this day and age is seen as the be all, end all; there is really no question on whether or not we should continue our education after high school, but rather which one should we go to. Society has made it so that post secondary is almost mandatory. That is why I think that this issue is something that should be addressed. It should be addressed because as a society the majority of us just accept the costs and demands that post secondary education puts on us without another thought because it is just something that we have to do because if we don’t we won’t get the jobs in the end (that is, if the degree we did has any value to employers). We do not question the institutions and just accept the rhetoric that they are telling us; the hidden agendas that they are imposing on us. We need to address this issue because I think that we really need to question the developing motives of higher education institutions.
Arguments that are against higher education as a business and brand generate:
– Does this take away from learning and the exploration of higher thinking that higher education once embodied and is rather now focusing on how and what can we do to attract the most “customers” to our institution?
– Education becoming too commercialized
– More universities come to depend on research funding from businesses, and this compels more researchers to not deviate in their findings from the interests of those who fund them
– Becoming training centers for industry; training workers that fit into the frame works of industries. There is now so much focus on workplace skills, that there is little value to knowing anything that cannot help students become more ‘‘marketable’’ in the workforce
– Perpetuates the hierarchy of schools and does not allow for other institutions to break into the “market of education”
– Devalues your degree
– Creates more part time or contract positions for faculty members and as a result it could create a sense of fear or compliance with staff because they feel as though they have to concede to the agenda and wishes of the institution
Arguments that are for higher education as a business and brand generate:
– Creates competition between institutions and as a result more innovation within schools so that they can keep up with or surpass other institutions
– With outside financial intervention it allows more people to have access to higher education because it would make tuition cheaper
– Creates awareness of post secondary institutions
– Have more transparent processes
– Consultation committees that involve students and faculty, and not just the university bureaucracy
– Have a cap on who and how much can invest in the university
– Have firm rules in terms of the participation in school matters that investors can have
Higher education as a business is a matter of increasing concern because of the influential business model that is changing how and what we are learning.
Black, J. (2008). The branding of higher education. Retrieved from http://www.semworks.net/papers/wp_The-Branding-of-Higher-Education.php
Lancendorfer, K. M. (2007). The branding of higher education: The great awakening in the hallowed halls of academia. American Academy of Advertising Conference Proceedings, pp. 242-242.
Natale, S. M., & Doran, C. (2012). Marketization of education: An ethical dilemma. Journal of Business Ethics, 105(2), 187-196.
Waeraas, A., & Solbakk, M. (2009). Defining the essence of a university: lessons from higher education branding. Higher Education, 57(4), 449-462.