Monday, January 21, 2008

Fearmongering neoliberalism

In an op-ed for today's Globe and Mail newspaper ("Canada's National Newspaper"), Indira Samarasekera, president of the University of Alberta, offers up an excellent example of the neoliberal propaganda aimed at opening up universities for exploitation by coporations.

Indeed, Samarasekera argues that the fate of not only universities, but of the national economy rides on public higher education resources being turned over to multinational corporations such as Intel, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, GlaxoSmithKline and BP.

The bargain is that these corporations invest "millions in basic and applied research in return for greater access to university laboratories and expertise," but Samarasekera studiously avoids any analysis of this equation.

Using the USA and India has examples of where "highly flexible, collaborative partnerships, have changed how postsecondary institutions and multinational conglomerates…work together," she argues that Canadians must follow the lead of these "most vibrant and diversified economies" to break down the barriers between industry and academe.

Samarasekera's key tactic is fear mongering about the Canadian economy, which she ironically admits is strong, but this fact seems not to affect her "logic":

But in today's ruthless global marketplace – where our competitors are leaping ahead of us through innovative policies and edgy entrepreneurial partnerships – we must quickly and strategically increase our competitiveness, productivity and innovation or risk being left behind.

Indeed, in spite of the strength of the Canadian economy, we are losing our competitive edge, failing to significantly improve productivity. Compared with our competitors, Canada has too few innovators, and too little entrepreneurial drive to bring our own ideas to market.

Samarasekera presents the fundamental (neoliberal) purpose of public research universities as: "Translating [university] research into commercially viable products" which is, of course, a "processes is best handled by expertise found in business."

President and vice-chancellor of the University of Alberta
21 January 2008

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