Commercialisation and the function of the university: two problems

Paul Arthur Taylor, Richard Braddock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper looks at commercialisation in universities by examining two issues associated with the commercialisation process. The first is its impact on academic freedom. The second is the rise, under commercialisation, of a conception of the student as a customer and a university education as a saleable commodity. The first issue raises a number of questions that we believe are widely misunderstood and therefore worth exploring here. One is the question of what exactly academic freedom is, and what it has to do with the quality of university research. Another is how the commercialisation of university research impacts upon academic freedom. We offer a brief philosophical account of academic freedom and its value, and then look at a concrete case to show how commercialisation can threaten academic freedom and, by implication, the quality of university research. Turning to the second issue, we look at the conceptual difficulties raised by viewing a university student as a customer and education as a market commodity. We offer a brief exposition of the social function of a university. In summary, we argue (i) that commercialisation can threaten academic freedom and, thereby, the quality of university research, and (ii) that it can promote a false and damaging market-based conception of a university education, but (iii) that these are not inevitable effects of commercialisation, provided appropriate measures are taken by education leaders.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-368
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Learning
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • commercialisation
  • the function of a university
  • academic freedom
  • education as a commodity
  • student as customer
  • university research
  • university-private sector research partnerships
  • university autonomy


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