University of Illinois Scraps For-Profit Subsidiary

31 March 2007 at 12:17 am 3 comments

| Peter Klein |

We noted previously the University of Illinois’s Global Campus, a proposed for-profit subsidiary that would offer an innovative, unorthodox program competing with nontraditional institutions like the University of Phoenix. Now I learn from Richard Vedder that the for-profit model has been scrapped due to objections from faculty. States the Chronicle of Higher Ed:

[P]rofessors and trustees never shared [President Joseph] White’s vision. They worried that a for-profit university would be more interested in market share than in academic quality control, and that a less-than-rigorous online wing might damage the reputation of the bricks-and-mortar institution.

Now the skeptics have scored a major victory: Mr. White has scaled back his plans for Global Campus, pitching it as an academic unit within the university, not as a separate corporate entity. The president has also scotched plans to seek independent accreditation for the online institution — a move that would have allowed Global Campus to adopt a fairly freewheeling curricular model by quickly adding and eliminating programs based on student demand.

Vedder draws a more general lesson about institutional culture and organizational inertia:

Changing the culture of existing institutions is nearly impossible. While I am all for strategies, such as bribing faculty, to try to effect a culture of innovation and receptivity to change, I think most of the dramatic new innovations will come from institutions created from scratch outside the rubric of existing universities, private or public.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Herman Najoli  |  31 March 2007 at 5:04 am

    I think Mr. White’s vision is forward-thinking but his strategy for generating buy-in from the professor’s and trustees was flawed. It seems to me that Mr. White was/is driven by a desire to gain credit for a significant milestone. This can be seen from the fact that instead of completely withdrawing the proposed plan, he scaled it back and pitched it as an academic unit.

    From a leadership standpoint, he should have gained buy-in from the key influencers on an individual basis before broadcasting the vision to a wider group. By finding the key influencers within the team of trustees and professors, and making it seem as if the vision came from them, he might have had a better chance of selling it to the skeptics.

    I disagree with Richard Vedder though, about the strategy of bribing faculty. If one has to bribe, then whatever they are selling is not good for the organization/institution. People will buy into a viable idea if it is sold well. Resorting to manipulative tactics is a sign of poor leadership, and that’s the last thing that our institutions of higher learning need.

  • 2. Joe Mahoney  |  31 March 2007 at 2:42 pm

    …Hmm Being at the University of Illinois I think I know a lot more detail about the Global campus story than has been written, but I will stick with the topic of general lessons to take away.

    I suggest a different general lesson:

    Currently there seems to be an ever widening lack of collaboration, coordination or even basic communication between administrators and faculty members within United States’ universities (others can comment about trends in their own countries).

    The story of Presidents and Deans no longer taking the time to consult with faculty may be becoming more the norm than the exception. It seems to be part of the “Corporatization” of Academic Life. While others may see if differently, I see the ever expanding corporate model of the university as leading to more harm than good. Also, due to the “collective action” problem I see academic behavior as mostly docile with little response to the ever dimiishing role of faculty input in decision making processes.

    In fact, when the faculty do respond FINALLY at SOMETHING, it comes mostly as a surprise to administrators. Now isn’t that the most telling bit of news to absorb !

    With the reduced communication may also have come a reduction in both respect for others judgments, and trust in others motives. For example, the inference seems to be that faculty aren’t REALLY worried about the quality of education, they just want to be bribed (or have side-payments to put it in less emotionally charged language). How interesting that the Corporate Model administrator cannot imagine any other motive than Money!

    In short, my conjecture is that AS A GENERAL TREND, the current relationships between faculty and administrators at universities are weakening. I will leave it to the empiricist to test this conjecture systematically.

    To put it dramtically, I am wondering if there is a crisis in management in many Academic institutions today.

    IMore generally, I am wondering if there is a crisis of management in many institutions today in general (Academics, Church, Government, etc.)

    Perhaps everything I am writing is unexceptional to an institutional theorist. However, as an organizational economists with a functionalist orientation, I am having a difficult time in accepting that leaders are not going to step up and help to make things better in all walks of life.

    Is a belief in the possibilities for improvements in the not too distant future justifiable? I wonder.

  • 3. Jeff McNeill » Blog Archive » links for 2007-04-01  |  1 April 2007 at 8:22 am

    [...] University of Illinois Scraps For-Profit Subsidiary « Organizations and Markets Mar 2007 article on organizational change resistance (tags: education reform) [...]

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