How Finance Penetrates its Other: A Cautionary Tale on the Financialization of a Dutch University

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Abstract

If any organization ought to be immune to the forces of financialization, it is a publicly funded university in corporatist Europe. Shielded from the intrusion by financial metrics, values and professionals through a strong historically rooted tradition of self-management by powerful professional guilds, continental universities should largely have avoided the marketization and managerialization of Anglophone universities. Not so, this case study of a Dutch public university suggests. From 1995 onwards, a shift in real estate management—devolving responsibilities from the Dutch state to universities—served as a Trojan horse for financialization, triggering changes in organizational culture and a power shift from teaching and research professionals to accountants, real-estate developers, financiers and their ilk. This case suggests that the power of finance is such that no societal domain is immune. The paper ends with a call for more non-metropolitan case studies of financialization and argues that the only hope for salvation is a more self-conscious defense of traditional academic values by the guardians of higher learning themselves.

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