Will de-funding unravel the academic integrity of universities?

Last week, the New York Times reported that in 2007, Deutsche Bank entered into an agreement with two German universities, Humboldt University and the Technical University of Berlin, to fund a mathematical laboratory. The problematic parts were the ‘secret’ terms: according to the article, the Deutsche Bank could not only influence the hiring process, but bank employees could serve as adjunct professors. Perhaps the most disturbing aspects of the agreement were that the bank had veto power over the laboratory’s research agenda and, more importantly, “was given the right to review any research produced by members of the Quantitative Products Laboratory 60 days before it was published and could withhold permission for publication for as long as two years.”

The German universities’ decision to accept the funding highlights a global struggle for universities generally. As governments continue to drastically cut budgets of higher education institutions, administrators are forced to make tough decisions that involve seeking external funding and/or making programmatic reductions. For example, the University of California system, after facing nearly a decade of budgetary shortfall was hit this month with additional deep cuts. The university system in California has already made deep reductions and is now asked to cut further. At what point do these decreases in government funding threaten the fabric of the university? Perhaps they already do. So, how do universities maintain their academic integrity and continue to pursue and preserve their research and teaching agendas with continually decreasing resources?

What if the collaboration involving Deutsche Bank becomes a standard model for survival?

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