Table of Contents:

Final remarks

In this chapter, we argued that research universities integrate global innovation networks led by intellectual monopolies in different positions. While a few can bargain with intellectual monopolies, most of them subordinate. Moreover, researching is becoming a more precarious and stressful job driven by the introduction of quantitative metrics and fix-term positions.

Quantification - as in the case of world rankings - evidences the attempt to homogenize academic work. However, universities are more heterogeneous than ever before, their ability as almost private firms to keep their profits and start an amplified accumulation process depends on their role in capitalist dynamics. Here, our distinction between the academic intellectual monopoly and the subordinate research univeristy sheds light. Their differences arise from the capacity of the former to control and organize innovation networks, thus profiting from their results. At the same time, the latter participates in those networks but, like innovating companies, it does not collect rents from its creative endeavour. It sells its research as a one-time product where the price is determined by adding measurable costs, thus not considering a an additional ammount (i.e., an intellectual rent) for the required creativity.

Participating in innovation circuits and networks curtails academic freedom for both research-university types. Although the academic intellectual monopoly has its own resources to balance capital accumulation needs with its internal academic demands, in order to keep its leadership, research tends to be steered towards the interests of corporate intellectual monopolies.

Nonetheless, this is not a unilateral trend. Research universities continue to serve their communities, which is an example of how they fulfil social demands and contribute in a non-commodified way to social and economic development (Arocena et al., 2015). Furthermore, students and faculty in many universities resist and suggest alternative agendas. In the case of quantification, it is noteworthy that some universities - like the University of Hamburg in Germany - have refused to provide their data to be ranked, as an attempt to undermine rankings’ power. In Latin America, CLACSO is piloting an initiative called FOLEC aimed at transforming evaluation criteria, deprioritizing papers and acknowledging different research profiles.

The rest of this book will illustrate the framework anticipated in this first part. In every chapter, research universities will be a central player but generallyjoining intellectual monopolies’ innovation networks in subordinated places.


  • 1 Some sections of this chapter are partially based on the paper “The direct subordination of universities to the accumulation of capital” published by Capital & Class (doi:10.1177/0309816819852761).
  • 2
  • 3 partnerships.html.
  • 4 silicon-valley-how-many-are-there-that-fail.
  • 5 That fixed percentage was dubbed the Bengen rule. Bengen was a financial adviser who estimated that spending around 4% of an endowment or pension fund market value made it sustainable in the long run (Haskel & Westlake, 2018).
  • 6 Please note that, as we previously remarked, we are focusing on the enterprise traits adopted by universities. We are not considering its surviving autonomy, Humboldtian or Mertonian ways of producing knowledge. These features highlight cooperation and the global nature of knowledge, detached from national or any other boundaries.
  • 7 It also harms students, turning them into mere passive consumers instead of active, critical and engaged humans in a continuous learning process.
  • 8 Of course, in countries where scholars are public servants, like France, their working conditions remain more protected. However, even this is changing with the introduction of bonuses for those who excel in their quantitative evaluations.
  • 9 casualised-academic-staff-in-one-go.


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