Summary of Universities in the Marketplace

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Universities in the Marketplace book summary


8 Overall

8 Applicability

9 Innovation

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Former Harvard University President Derek Bok warns that making commercial ventures part of the fabric of U.S. higher education endangers universities’ basic values and goals. However, he also gives compelling descriptions of why trustees and administrators are tempted to sign deals with corporations. He is realistic about the slim prospects for keeping such ventures away, especially since some - like sports teams - are already entrenched. Because Bok’s analysis is so deeply rooted in his years of experience leading Harvard, his proposed guidelines for how and when to allow big business on campus are particularly helpful. His views are occasionally unwarrantedly sunny, such as when he avers that faculty members rarely guide students into work that promotes the teacher’s financial gain. He also asserts that faculty must be wary of collaborating with pharmaceutical companies to get access to facilities and materials, even though funding unfettered research has become increasingly difficult. Furthermore, after asserting that doctors are alert to drug companies’ promotions in sponsored continuing education courses, he acknowledges research showing that doctors who attend such courses are more likely to prescribe the companies’ drugs. Despite such detours, finds this book extremely valuable for anyone who believes that academic freedom and integrity truly matter. Academic leaders should read Bok’s important, thoughtful and useful ideas on ways that colleges can minimize the risks of commercialization.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why universities are tempted to become more commercial;
  • The major pros and cons of this commercialization; and
  • How to bring for-profit ventures into universities without destroying what’s uniquely good about academia.

About the Author

Derek Bok is the former President of Harvard University and Dean of Harvard Law School. He currently holds the 300th Anniversary University Professor and Faculty Chair at Harvard’s Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations. He wrote The Shape of the River (with William G. Bowen) and The Trouble with Government.



Values and Education
Americans often look to universities for people and philosophies they value highly, both for experts with special knowledge and for progress in basic research, theories and ideas. Because such expertise and information lead to applications and products that ease people...

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