Neoliberalism in the Academy: Dispatch from a Public University in Colorado

Sasha Breger Bush, Lucy Ware McGuffey, Tony Robinson


Neoliberalism’s influence in higher education is broad and deep. We focus on three interrelated dynamics, all manifestations of neoliberalization in higher education: labor flexibilization, bureaucratization, and corporatization. Through these channels, neoliberalization is impacting the nature and quality of the education that our students receive, as well as the academic freedom, professional respect, and quality of life we enjoy as professors.

Giving flesh to this analysis, we pepper the discussion with personal insights based on our own experiences teaching together at a public higher education institution. We three authors perform different duties and roles in the same department. One of us demoted herself from the tenure-track two decades ago in order to focus on teaching, and finds herself just as distracted from her students today as she was then. Following many years of contingent appointments and sporadic unemployment, one of us just recently obtained a tenure-track position, a “promotion” that has actually undermined her teaching and her research in unexpected ways. Finally, one of us is a reluctant manager, a department chair who longs to support the creative innovations of department faculty, but who labors constantly under an increasingly heavy burden of administrative oversight and reporting.

Published on 20th April, 2017, in World Social and Economic Review Issue 8, April 2017 – The Political Economy of the University INC.