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Academic capitalism and doctoral student socialization: A case study

Maria del Pilar Mendoza, University of Massachusetts Amherst


At the turn of the 21st century, research universities are increasingly seeking funds in the private sector through grants, contracts, industry-university partnerships, and commercialization of research (academic capitalism). As industry-academia partnerships grow, cultural tensions are likely to occur as the result of fundamental differences between business and academic values. Given that graduate school provides anticipatory socialization to the academic profession, this trend leads to important questions about the changing nature of these professions, including: How are graduate students coping with conflictive cultural messages as they are socialized in environments where both industry and academia coexist? The purpose of this study is to focus on the socialization of graduate students to investigate the effects of academic capitalism on the anticipatory socialization to the academic profession. The overall methodology is a case study of an academic department engaged with high levels of academic capitalism and the main sources of evidence are doctoral students. Ethnographic interviewing and analysis was used to obtain the participants' cultural domains of knowledge around academic capitalism. Given previous studies, a remarkable finding of this work is that the majority of the students could not see any negative effects of industrial funding and are very satisfied with the opportunities that it offers to enrich their training. Leaving behind the dichotomy of business versus academic values, these students see partnerships with industry as a way to achieve the traditional outcomes of the academic profession. The cultural knowledge that these students might bring to their entering institutions reflects an integration of traditional academic values with new perspectives brought by academic capitalism. This study reinforces a utilitarian perspective in which industry, government and academia associate in productive collaborations to generate knowledge, transfer technology to society, and educate the future generation of scientists. However, more studies are needed in departments with different levels of funding and prestige in order to determine the extent of the implications of academic capitalism across different academic contexts.

Subject Area

Higher education|Educational sociology

Recommended Citation

Mendoza, Maria del Pilar, "Academic capitalism and doctoral student socialization: A case study" (2005). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3179903.