1st Edition

The Corporatization and Environmental Sustainability of Australian Universities A Critical Perspective

By Hans Baer Copyright 2024

    Analysing the juxtaposition of two trends in universities – corporatisation and environmental sustainability – this book explores how they are more contradictory than compatible.

    Hans A Baer argues that this contradiction is unavoidable because of the capitalist parameters in which they operate, including a commitment to on-going economic growth which contributes to social inequality, environmental degradation, and greenhouse gas emissions. Drawing on archival sources and Baer’s experiences in university sustainability forums, the book exposes how what universities claim to do in relation to environmental sustainability compares with their research, educational, operational and institutional activities.

    Presenting a critique of and a radical alternative to the status quo, this book is suitable for academics and students of anthropology, environmental studies and higher education.

    Introduction  1. Capitalism, the Socio-Ecological Crisis, and Universities as Contradictory Spaces  2. The Sustainability Discourse in Corporate Universities Around the World  3. The Corporatisation of Australian Universities  4. Sustainability Policies, Practices, and Programs in Australian Universities  5. Sustainability Policies, Practices, and Programs at the University of Melbourne  6. Ecological Modernisation as a Hegemonic Academic Discourse in Grappling with Sustainability and Climate Change  7.  How Environmentally Sustainable is the Internationalisation of Australian Higher Education?  8.Toward a Socially Just and Environmentally Sustainable University


    Hans A Baer is an anthropologist affiliated with the University of Melbourne. His areas of research have included Mormonism, African American religion, socio-political life in East Germany, critical health anthropology, complementary medicine in the US, UK and Australia, higher education, climate change and sustainability, and eco-socialism.

    "In this important book, Hans Baer argues convincingly that the logic of capitalist growth, now embedded in university policy, militates against alternative, critical thinking and sustainable practices in the academy. Baer shows how the growth imperative has permeated universities and why it is detrimental not only to social criticism, but to serious intellectual work in general. The argument is persuasive and should be read as a clarion call everyone who believes that the function of higher education and research should not merely consist in contributing to system maintenance and economic growth. In our era of climate change and massive environmental destruction, the contradiction is glaring and too important to be ignored."


    Professor Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Oslo


    "Hans Baer gives us a great deal to think about. He gives hard detail about the toxic entanglement of universities with the corporate economy, and Australian universities' strange mixture of deceit and activism in the face of environmental crisis. He shows that there are solutions. They demand common-sense, some courage - and deep institutional change."

    Professor Raewyn Connell, author of The Good University, University of Sydney


    Baer's volume directly addresses the fundamental links between the corporatisation of the Australian universities and environmental sustainability, offering in-depth analysis and critical commentary on the universities which cannot be found elsewhere. It dispels widespread myths about the heroic efforts of universities to lead the national effort for a better, more democratic, more sustainable world, revealing these as intensely self-serving and damaging to the social and built environment. Timely and powerful, this analysis offers a fresh and much needed correction to the universities' own discourses about their contributions to reversing climate change.

    Professor Fran Collyer, Professor of Sociology, University of Sydney