The Business of Education: Bad for Business, Bad for Education

By Thomas Hench and John Betton.

Published by Journal of the World Universities Forum

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

It is commonplace today to decry the century-long damage done to institutions of higher learning by applying “the standard business model” to their ongoing administration. Most accept that the familiar corporate values of hierarchy and control, efficiency, standardization, and obedience are anathema to the creation of new knowledge and, therefore, to the core mission of the university. Few dispute this. But what is often overlooked is just how bad this model also has been for business. It is destructive of the very creativity that is central to both good business practice and higher learning. Yet, it is this limiting view of business that has come to define how institutions of higher learning are too frequently administered. Why? How did this happen? How did the “wrong” lessons of business get learned and imprinted onto university administration? The purpose of this paper is to place this “fundamental attribution error” into its social and historical context and to examine how this state of affairs came about in the first place; and what might yet be done to integrate a more creative view of business into the actual logic and practice of higher education administration.

Keywords: Management History, University Administration, Emergence, Higher- Learning, Governance

Journal of the World Universities Forum, Volume 3, Issue 6, pp.31-42. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 607.183KB).

Dr. Thomas Hench

Associate Professor of Management, Department of Management, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, La Crosse, Wisconsin, USA

Tom Hench is Associate Professor of Management at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, where he teaches a broad array of management courses. He received his Doctorate in Management from the University of South Carolina in 1997. His dissertation, “An Evolutionary History of the Office Systems Furniture Industry and the Nature of Strategic Change,” examined evolution, entrepreneurship, and strategy as emergent, self-organizing processes. Tom also holds Masters degrees in Management and International Relations from Vanderbilt University (1973) and Boston University (1971), respectively. Before earning his doctorate, he worked for nearly two decades in product management and product development for high-growth manufacturing companies, with much of his time spent in the office systems furniture industry. Tom is most interested in change management and changing paradigms and how we frame the problems we hope to solve.

Dr. John Betton

Professor of Management, Department of Management, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, La Crosse, Wisconsin, USA

John Betton graduated with a doctorate from the University of South Carolina following twelve years working in Europe. He is Professor of Comparative Management Systems at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse where he teaches classes in business and human rights as well as occasional courses in the environmental studies program. His research has appeared in The Academy of Management Review and Labor Law journal as well as more interdisciplinary publications such as Social Forces and Journal of Genocide Research.

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