Symbiotic or parasytic? Universities, academic capitalism and the global knowledge economy
Paper short abstract:
The paper asks whether the current relationship between universities and academic capitalism is best described as symbiotic or parasitic. I draw on findings of an ongoing, interdisciplinary study of universities in the knowledge economy.
Paper long abstract:
The health of social anthropology as a discipline and practice has long been connected to its position as a university-based subject. However, changes in the political economy of higher education, including cuts in public spending, rising student fees, the privileging of STEM subjects over the arts and humanities, and the proliferation of new regimes of audit and accountability, pose challenges for anthropology as well as the future of the university itself. In countries such as Britain, Australia and New Zealand, academics are being urged to be more entrepreneurial, to focus on 'impact', and to engage more proactively with business and commerce in order to create a more commercially oriented 'innovation ecosystem'. The idea of forging a 'triple helix' of university-industry-government relations has become the new common sense that underpins the funding of higher education. But how positive is this supposed symbiosis between public universities and external financial interests? What are the costs of this collaboration? And what are the implications for anthropology? This paper sets out to address these questions by drawing on a collaborative, multidisciplinary research project on university reform and globalization (URGE) carried out between 2010-2013.
Symbiotic anthropologies: new disciplinary relationships in an age of austerity