11.1. When Business Embraces the Academy
Information delivery has always been intimately associated with well-defined, effective procedures algorithms. That is, information is designed more for manipulation and doing than for understanding, and this helps to explain the convergence of business and education today. The convergence, which has drawn considerable comment and hardly needs documenting, includes these developments:
Large corporations now fund academic departments and institutes with specific, corporation-defined missions.
Countless training deals have been established between corporations and academic institutions, where the academy creates academic programs tailored to the needs of particular businesses.
High-tech companies such as Cisco Systems, 3Com, Oracle, and IBM have themselves gone into the teacher-training business, helping teachers with the latest technologies. Beyond this, companies actually develop curricula for schools and give them the required equipment. And so a student takes a networking course from Cisco or a database course from Oracle and receives academic credit for the work.
Over 2000 corporate "universities" have been set up in the United States today. A few of these have formal degree-granting powers, and many have cooperative relationships with colleges and universities. Given the growing pressure to become self-supporting, these corporate institutions are bringing their "branded" education into competition with mainline higher education.
All this worries a growing contingent of educators, who fear the corporation's crushing solicitude. I share this fear, but it seems to me that the more fundamental issue often goes unnoted: our changing notions about what education is make it inevitable that business and industry should step into the picture aggressively. If you want efficient delivery of effective facts and procedures, then business already attuned to such computationally rigorous training will far outperform the university.
In other words, having increasingly accepted their role as training grounds for business which is what the information-transfer model of education implies universities are now finding that business is better situated to train its own employees than schools are. Many schools will, at best, simply hire themselves out to corporations.