“University is Not a Business”, Cyrus Mody, History

If you think of the university as a factory that makes something, I think it’s important to keep in mind that universities make several different things. We produce students who then go into lots of different sectors of society and who draw on lots of different aspects of their experience at the university in their later pursuits. We produce knowledge. We produce things that get published in peer review journals and books and so forth. We produce stuff. There are small-scale factories at a lot of universities.  Even if you think of a research laboratory in chemistry or material science, it’s making stuff that then in some way or another ought to be translated into society. We are making intellectual property as well; we’re getting patents and Materials Transfer Agreements. We’re making creative compositions. The trick needs to be to ensure that the production of all these different things is mutually reinforcing that we’re not focusing on producing just the intellectual property at the expense of the production of well-trained students. Instead, the production of intellectual property should benefit the production of good students, and the production of the students should allow us to make better intellectual property.  The university is not a business. We should not think about which products to focus on as though we were in the free marketplace. Instead, we should recognize that we are a different kind of organization than a business, and we need to preserve the diversity of our product line.