A Deal with the Devil: The Role of Financiers on University Boards

Authors: Albina Gibadullina*, University of British Columbia
Topics: Economic Geography, Geography Education, Quantitative Methods
Keywords: Higher Education, Financialization, Governance, Neoliberalization
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Napoleon C2, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Through a time-series analysis of 70 American research universities, this study captures the vocational changes in make-up of the governing boards of universities between 2000 and 2017, and examines the extent to which representation of financiers affects university operations. I find that the representation of financiers on governing boards has increased from 21% to 33% at private universities while remaining at 11-12% at public universities, and that it is negatively correlated with the representation of higher education, public sector and non-FIRe private sector professionals. I also find empirical evidence for the consequences of financialized governance. First, higher representation of financiers leads to labour restructuring, particularly: (1) growing executive compensation for university presidents and a growing gap between their own salaries and the average salaries of faculty, (2) less funding allocated towards research in comparison to instruction, and (3) overall less spent on labour. Secondly, it leads to financial restructuring, including lower university indebtedness, higher reliance on investment income, and increasing spending towards infrastructure. Thirdly, it leads to commodification of education captured through rising tuition costs and more funding allocated towards student services. While universities seek to attract financiers to assist them in becoming more financially self-sufficient during periods of austerity, the increased presence of bankers in the primary decision-making organ of the university fosters the embedding of their ideological values within it. In turn, this leads to the corporatization of universities through the processes of labour, financial and operational restructuring.

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