Academic restructuring: Organizational change and institutional imperatives

Gumport, Paricia J.
January 2000
Higher Education (00181560);Jan2000, Vol. 39 Issue 1, p67
Academic Journal
A perennial challenge for universities and colleges is to keep pace with knowledge change by reconsidering their structural and resource commitments to various knowledge areas. Reflecting upon changes in the academic landscape of public higher education in the United States over the past quarter of a century, the author diagnoses a macro-trend whereby the dominant legitimating idea of public higher education has changed from higher education as a social institution to higher education as an industry. Three interrelated mechanisms are identified as having advanced this process: academic management, academic consumerism, and academic stratification. This pattern of academic restructuring reflects multiple institutional pressures. While public universities and colleges have increasingly come to rely on market discourse and managerial approaches in order to demonstrate responsiveness to economic exigencies, they may end up losing legitimacy as they move away from their historical character, functions, and accumulated heritage as educational institutions. Thus, responsiveness to compelling economic pressures that dominate contemporary organizational imperatives in an attempt to gain legitimacy in one dimension may result in loss for another. Wholesale adaptation to market pressures and managerial rationales could thereby subsume the discourse about the future of colleges and universities within a logic of economic rationality at a detriment to the longer-term educational legacies and democratic interests that have long characterized American public education.


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