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Donors dictating the curriculum

  1. May 2, 2007 #1
    I saw an article about a new trend in education philanthropy. Some donors, corporate and individual, are no longer satisfied with a school or building being named after them. They now want the university to agree to teach specific courses with specific content and objectives. Some examples:

    - An advertising agency designed the curriculum for the university, sends it's own executives once a week to teach courses, and then hires the best graduates.
    - A manufacturer of dental products contributed a large sum to a dental school with the understanding that students would be taught how to use the company's products.
    - An owner of a pro sports team designed a sports management program that had to be implemented by the university that accepted his gift.

    All of these universities were state schools.

    Proponents say that state funding is inadequate and this is the only way to offer the programs students want and need. And it is claimed that these corporate-designed programs are more practical and 'real world' than programs designed by academics. Opponents say that this approach hampers free thought and the innovation it engenders, and encroaches upon the traditional 'sanctity' of the pure academic environment.

    Some universities have flatly refused some very generous donations when such stringent conditions were attached.

    Is this approach enlightened philanthropy or self-serving meddling?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. May 2, 2007 #2
    Irrelevant question.

    Any donor has the right to attach any strings they want to their money. And the university similarly has a right to refuse any such donation on the basis of its strings.

    The only question is, are such courses useful to students? In some cases absolutely. In fact, I don't see much of a counter argument in the cases listed. We get large amounts of free equipment from companies like agilent. Is that harming innovation and free thinking? Only if we're supposed to know how to build our own digital oscilloscopes for every experiment we ever do--we certainly should know how they work, though--which would be absurd.
     
  4. May 2, 2007 #3
    Your experience is irrelevant. You evidently don't understand how cash-strapped most schools are. They do not receive 'large amounts of free equipment.' They do not have the option of refusing one donation and accepting funds from another source. There is no other source. Without that donor there would be no program, and their students would not be served. That's the reality.

    These donors are dangling a carrot in front of a starving horse, but only if the horse walks through fire will it get the carrot. The question is not, what is useful to today's rider; the question is, how long can the horse go on that way and still be useful to other riders?
     
  5. May 3, 2007 #4
    does anyone even doubt that donors have control over what's taught? the people who run universities are the ones who have by far the least to do with education. the administrators don't teach courses (hardly ever anyway), the faculty does, but they're under the thumb of the admin also, and the admin is under the thumb of the donors.
     
  6. May 3, 2007 #5
    This is hardly anything new..
     
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