What Are Universities For?
Penguin, $22.95 pb, 240 pp, 9781845144820
What happens if we take seriously the metaphor of a marketplace of ideas? Philosopher John Armstrong and economist Carsten Murawski recently tested that question in an article on theconversation.edu.au, by exploring the implications of a market logic for higher education (20 March 2012).They argued that student choice would remodel the teaching and research agendas of our universities – not instantly but over time, much as water carves out shapes in sandstone. The online response was instant, and unambiguous. Academics and doctoral students rejected the language of markets as profoundly hostile to their vision of a university. If students start paying for instruction, said one respondent, institutions will soon pander to ‘the lowest common denominator amongst student interests’.