Well-written analysis of the structural problems of the university (hat tip More or Less Bunk, who has a very different reaction). It almost made me thinking switching to admin is a terrible career move. It’s long, but a couple of excerpts:

Traditional universities are complex and expensive, providing a range of services from scientific research and graduate training to mass entertainment via loosely affiliated professional sports franchises. To fund these things, universities tap numerous streams of revenue: tuition, government funding, research grants, alumni and charitable donations. But the biggest cash cow is lower-division undergraduate education. Because introductory courses are cheap to offer, they’re enormously profitable. The math is simple: Add standard tuition rates and any government subsidies, and multiply that by several hundred freshmen in a big lecture hall. Subtract the cost of paying a beleaguered adjunct lecturer or graduate student to teach the course. There’s a lot left over. That money is used to subsidize everything else.

But this arrangement, however beneficial to society as a whole, is not a particularly good deal for the freshman gutting through an excruciating fifty minutes in the back of a lecture hall.

Just as the world needs the foreign bureaus that newspapers are rapidly shutting down, it needs quirky small university presses, Mughal textile historians, and people who are paid to think deep, economically unproductive thoughts. Rather than hiding within the conglomerate, each unbundled part of the university will have to find new ways to stand alone.

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