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CAUT Bulletin Archives

January 1998

Celebrating the sell-out of university research

Under the ironically titled caption "Good Research Makes Good News," the latest fulminations of NSERC president Tom Brztustowski were recently declared in selected Canadian university bulletins and publications. Brztustowski celebrates a growing success story in which researchers across Canada are at the leading edge of service to the corporate imperative of technology, profit and sales.

As he rapturously reports such stirring advances in research for the benefit of Canadians as "the magic threshold of 250 sales that makes it (a Bombardier private jet) a money maker," we may wonder what has happened to the university as a place of research for deeper understanding or the public interest.

The sad truth is that the university is being rapidly converted into a slavish service-function of corporate money-making and the heads of our research institutions seem increasingly anxious to serve the new order as their god.

The NSERC president's rise to leadership of Canada's higher research sector was not easily won. He earned his spurs as a corporate standard-bearer in the public educational sector when, as Ontario's deputy minister of education, he declared the purpose of all public education in the province to be as follows:

"I contend that the one global object of education must be for a greater capability of the people of Ontario to create wealth ... (to) export products in which our knowledge and skills provide the value added ... to develop new services which we can offer in trade in the world market." (Cited by William Graham, "From the President," OCUFA Bulletin, 6:15 (1989), 2-3.)

But a question arises. Where does all this fit in with the university's constitutional objectives? Are we witnessing a corporate coup d'état of our public education systems by a bureaucratic elite which no longer serves the academic mission, but first and foremost the interests of external commercial agents?

Philosophy, University of Guelph