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Contract Academics

February 19, 2009

A well written article: “The Commodification and Deprofessionalization of the PhD,” from “The Profession” column of the February 2009 issue of Perspectives on History (rprt. American Historical Association):

[The] application of business models to universities is a key element of the problem. The idea is to churn out as many graduates, at whatever level, to improve the reputation of the school and to increase attendance figures …

The academy needs to consider seriously if continual growth should be, as it now seems to be, its paramount goal. How many members can the profession accommodate, how is that number determined, who determines it, and how do you ensure that those who can contribute have the opportunity to do so? …

Another crucial part of the problem is, of course, budgetary. Funding, particularly at state schools, is funneled away from the humanities into areas that are ‘profitable’—the hard sciences, business, or entertainment activities (aka, athletics).… This again reinforces the present vicious circle in which too many people chase too few jobs and the profession struggles to find ways to accommodate them. The commodification of the PhD is unquestionably in evidence here.


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