Saturday, November 14, 2015

Canadian universities search for balance in accepting corporate money

More Canadian institutions will face controversy over the influence of donors on programs if they do not rethink their relationship with private funders, warn academics who have studied the relationship between donations and educational institutions.

“In cases where public dollars are declining, universities become dependent on these revenue streams. … There is an implicit incentive not to cross the agenda of your funders,” said Christopher Lubienski, a professor in education policy at the University of Illinois who has studied the impact of private think tanks on education.

An independent inquiry will look into recent allegations that Enbridge Inc. sought too much influence at a research centre at the University of Calgary that bore its name and to which the energy company initially gave $2.5-million. It is the latest in a string of cases over the past decade that have led academics across the country to criticize postsecondary institutions that appear to be willing to share control over their research agenda with private donors.

“It does not surprise me when a company wants influence. It surprises me how quickly universities cave for a relatively small amount of money,” said David Robinson, the executive director of the Canadian Association of Faculty Teachers (CAUT), which has raised objections about several high-profile cases, including at Carleton University and York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

The coming years will see an increase in collaborations between universities and private and non-profit companies – last month, Canadian universities said they would seek to increase such partnerships. The move builds on billions of dollars in existing research deals, but it requires firm rules to protect academic research.  (more...)

My alma mater, the University of Toronto, was particularly beholden to these folks in the 1970s:

Every time I hear people say universities are "liberal", I get this crooked smile.

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