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CAUT Bulletin Archives

December 2005

The McDonaldization of Higher Education

Dennis Hayes & Robin Wynyard, eds. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002; 232 pp; ISBN: 0-89789-856-7, hardcover $89.95 us.
The term “McDonaldization” was coined by George Ritzer in 1993 and is a valuable tool for providing a theoretical and practical debate concerning novel and defining features of our contemporary world. The growing literature on McDonaldization shows the power of the term to describe the extension of industrial rationalization (commodification) to wider society. In the context of higher education, one can see the application of Ritzer’s four features of McDonaldization: efficiency, calculability, predictability and control. For example, higher education is becoming more efficient because it is processing more students by introducing multiple choice exams (US) or by removing exams altogether (UK) and replacing them with forms of continuous assessment, which leads to grade inflation and more students passing. The contributors to this volume, 15 academics and writers from three continents, examine what has been called the “McDonaldization of higher education” and the impact this has on the idea of the university as a liberal institution primarily engaged in the pursuit of knowledge.
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