Universities and Privatization

Also from yesterday’s Times, a nice little piece on “privatization” of public universities that, surprisingly, doesn’t once use the phrase “Bayh-Dole.”

Two observations:

First, it is a little surprising, too, that the phenomenon that the Times describes — the squeeze on public research funding and the gradual elimination of the postwar role of the research university as the general-purpose R&D arm of the federal government — has taken so long to manifest itself at the tuition end, where it gets the attention of the public and of the Times. This started during the Reagan administration, and it affects both public and private universities. Some universities have seen this coming for a long time (I had conversations about this in the early 1990s with Yale development officials) and are better prepared to deal with it today. Some universities are just now waking up to the problem.

Second, the funding/tuition issue is inseparable from the commercialization of university research. University administrators bemoan reductions in public funding at the same time that they eagerly pump faculty for invention disclosures. The point isn’t that they can’t have it both ways; the point is that the phenomena are linked in the context of a very complex institutional setting.