Capture Blog

Oxford Blues: The Tension Between Living and Funding an Institutional Mission

Introducing their recent interview with UCLA professor Ozan Jaquette, Thom Golden and Brad Weiner, hosts of Capture Higher Ed’s podcast The WeightList, offered fair warning that the conversation “pulls no punches” and “may raise a few hackles.”

Jaquette certainly may ruffle some tweed at Oxford. An assistant professor at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, he investigates the behavior of colleges and universities as they attempt a precarious balance between revenue generation, prestige accumulation and the public trust.

An emerging voice in higher education, Jaquette traces this fascination with enrollment management back to 2003 when he started a master’s program at the University of Oxford. He was nervous. He didn’t hail from, in his words, “a really fancy school,” and didn’t know how he would stack up academically at one of the most prestigious universities in the world. But when he arrived …

“It was sort of a joke,” Jaquette recalls. “It was just Americans running around all over the place — party, party, party — lots of high dinner and symbol and ritual but not a lot of school work.”

No longer worried about managing his course load, Jaquette was relieved. But that relief soon gave way to concern about what he perceived as apathy among the professors toward their students’ work ethic.

“That bothered me,” he says. “I felt like I wasn’t being pushed.”

Balancing Budgets

As he neared completion of his Oxford studies, he decided to address his concerns with his department head, who also happened to be his adviser. Why did Oxford offer so many one-year master’s programs to international students? Why were there so many Americans there?

What he learned troubled him further.

Ten years earlier, Oxford was in a budget crisis and adopted something called Responsibility Center Management. This required every department to generate revenue to meet its costs, a directive that was complicated by a tuition ceiling that limited what the university could charge students from Great Britain and the European Union.

“Someone came up with this idea to create these one-year master’s programs, target them to international students, and charge them whatever we want,” Jaquette learned. “And then they spread like wild fire.”

Educating an undergraduate student is expensive for Oxford. In a way, these new master’s students were brought in to subsidize undergraduate education and help these departments balance their budgets.

“To me, I thought the program was created because the world needed people who understood comparative social policy,” Jaquette says. “That’s what my master’s program was … When I found out my program was created because the department needed revenue, and they thought they could get enrollment in this program, it really bothered me.”

Always an idealist when it came to education, Jaquette left Oxford and began his Ph.D. program with the ultimate goal of being a community college president. But what he saw at Oxford continued to hound him, and eventually led to his work today.

“I decided that I want to try and disentangle what organizations say they do from what they do,” he says.

And he has plenty to say on the matter.

Listen to the rest of his candid discussion with Thom and Brad on Episode 12 of The WeightList, Following the College Access Money with Ozan Jaquette. Also, be sure to checkout the most recent WeightList, Episode 13, Enrollment Goals and Half-Court Shots: You Cannot Have It All.

By Kevin Hyde, Senior Content Writer, Capture Higher Ed

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