Are universities responding better and faster to market demands?

I want to share an interesting thought on university-industry-relations concerning the development of curricula and research according to business demands. Generally, the political discourse increasingly emphasizes the urge to cooperate with industry: “universities should develop structured partnership WITH the world of enterprise in order to become significant players in the economy, able to respond better and faster to the demands of the market and to develop partnerships which harness scientific and technological knowledge.” (European Commission, 2009: 2). But, according to the “conventional wisdom”, universities are seen “as basically reluctant partners, unwilling or slow to respond to market demand” (Regini, 2012: 87).

However, Regini’s empirical findings suggest the opposite: universities do try to account for anticipated market demands, but not so the enterprises. The uncertainty of market developments simply forbids enterprises to “effectively anticipate their own needs for highly-skilled labor and competent human capital” (Regini, 2012: 87).

If the demand for skills (graduates) is highly volatile, how can universities made responsible for qualification mismatches? In other words, either the business world is made responsible for not being able to create a PROJECTABLE demand or both industry and universities have to be freed from the burden of being responsible of qualification mismatches, over-qualification or unemployment. Developed capitalist economies either live with the numerous market failures or we have to rethink the functionality of the capitalist market rather than to push universities to heal these systems failures.

EC, 2009. A new partnership for the modernisation agenda for universities: Education, research and innovation. Communication, COM(2009) 158. Brussels: European Comission.

Regini, M. 2012. Economizing and Marketization in a Functionally Differentiated Capitalist Society–A Theoretical Conceptualization. In U. Schimank, & U. Volkmann (Eds.), The Marketization of Society: Economizing the Non-Economic: 81-94.

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