Managerial Universities

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by Bhabani Shankar Nayak  7 October 2022

Universities have been experiencing depoliticization, marketisation, and the deepening of managerialism over the last three decades. The campuses across the globe are witnessing the growth of a car park culture of managerialism where students and staff members are treated as cash cows or cars in the car parks. The Vice Chancellors, Deputy Vice Chancellors, and their managerial elks run universities like badly managed undemocratic family firms. The growth of compliance culture is ruining the critical traditions of knowledge production and democratic dissemination. The managers in the universities rarely teach and research. They bluff with the deceptive voices of concern and brand themselves as practitioners with new titles as Professors of Practice. What practice? The answer is as tenuous as the title refers to. However, they talk about quality teaching and quality research. This is a fake acting master class in a theatre of absurdity in an integrity-free zone called a managerial university. Sausage factories are better in terms of quality processes than universities today.

Such a ruinous path is dangerous for the present and future of our students and society.  The managerial onslaughts on critical thinking, teaching, and learning are posing serious challenges to the possibilities of radical transformation in society.  The growing managerialism and marketisation of education are trying to establish a marketplace for education free from any form of consciousness, creativity, and critical thinking. It is trying to produce compliant hands, minds, and skills necessary for the running of a profit-driven market based on commoditisation of lives and livelihoods. The commodification of education is a means for the commoditisation of society and individual lives.

In spite of all forms of alienation perpetuated by the marketisation and managerialism within universities, managerial universities lack radical class consciousness and class character as workers in the universities work like distinct herds without any form of coherence in common experience.  The departmentalisation of knowledge in the name of specialisation and employability skills, there is compartmentalisation of people working in the compliance knowledge industry called universities. It destroys the interdisciplinary foundations of knowledge. The career-seeking staff, students, and knowledge workers are busy in the tick box exercises in selling overpriced educational degrees and qualifications printed in A4 size paper, badly printed in some remote corners of the unused building in the universities.  The crises of universities reflect larger crises of radical consciousness in society.

All crises and challenges are opportunities of possibilities for a radical transformation of universities in particular and society in general.  The managerial universities create an alienating experience in the workplace for both staff and students irrespective of their positions in the classrooms and in the university pay scale. Universities treat students and staff as numbers in the managerial excel sheets. This is a new reality. There is no illusion about it. These common experiences and outcomes are central to building a radical movement against the backdrop of the deepening marginalisation of staff and students in the universities. The processes of proletarianization of men and women, white and non-white workers, racial and religious minorities, laptop class and chattering class, and outsourcing of jobs are common grounds on which we can stand together and fight in solidarity for the greater good of society. This can only help in the decolonisation and democratisation of knowledge from managerial universities under capitalism.

Some radical campus struggles give us hope for a better future. The freedom from managerial universities and their transformation depends on our commitment to the defeat of the capitalist system. It is a common battle. It is a battle for scientific and secular knowledge traditions accessible and available to all without any form of barriers. It is a battle for critical and creative knowledge in the service of peace, people, and the planet. It is time to fight such a battle to overcome the challenges of managerial university and capitalist society.