The Consumer University: Developing An Idea
Which leads me to the second part of my proposition: That the changes in the idea of university isn't simply a reflection of the societal changes, on which there seems to be an agreement on all sides, most notably from the academics, but it is rather an active agent for those changes. I believe that the universities have become an instrument for overall 'financialisation' of the society [which is about allowing finance to decide on values and priorities, and those controlling the finance the position of power].
Indeed, this is unlikely to be taken kindly by my university friends. They would like to see, as with everyone around us, as the banks as the bad boys and everyone else as their victims. And, indeed, some will be indignant because they, within the universities, have been the strongest critiques of the financialisation and the devastation it brings to communities. However, this is about how universities as institutions play a defining role in progressing the agenda for financialisation, shaping the students' aspirations, binding the academics' successes or failures against financialised criteria, helping shape the wider society's values and what we care for, rather than the work of individual academic. Any dissent, within the university, which may be tolerated in the name of academic freedom as long as it does not undermine the scheme: And, it never does, as the individual acts of divergent thinking is treated as 'dissent' while convergent thinking is systematically promoted and valued throughout the system of education.
In my idea then, the modern university is the 'Consumer University', an institution whose sole purpose is to create generations of consumers and establish the values of consumerisation, which is the bedrock of the value creation that justifies financialisation. This is my next project, indeed - clarifying my thoughts and putting them coherently - and in this, I believe, lies the answer to my original paradox: Why do educators obsess themselves with the system itself and not its students; why do employers not get value from the education students receive; and finally, and most importantly, why do the students still go to universities. The answer, I intend to show, is that the universities are merely 'society factories', they are merely processing a class of people credentialled to supply the social values that legitimises the system that we live into. And, as things change outside, and the foundations of finance faces challenge of legitimacy, these values that modern university has come to propagate, at all levels, must be challenged too. Our only hope for a stable society perhaps lies with such an enterprise.