The first sentences of Jeffrey Williams' essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education, "Deconstructing Academe: The Birth of Critical University Studies", sounds like an introduction to the many conservative and libertarian critiques of higher education that have appeared in recent decades, starting with Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind, Martin Anderson's Imposters in the Temple, Roger Kimball's Tenured Radicals, Dinesh D'Souza's Illiberal Education, and Richard Bernstein's Dictatorship of Virtue. The sentence reads:
"Over the past two decades in the United States, there has been a new wave of criticism of higher education. "
But the second sentence dispels them all.
"Much of it has condemned the rise of 'academic capitalism' and the corporatization of the university; a substantial wing has focused on the deteriorating conditions of academic labor; and some of it has pointed out the problems of students and their escalating debt."
The capitalist/corporate target of this "new wave of criticism" limits it to left-wing approaches, but this doesn't prevent Williams from characterizing it as an "emerging field," an area of study that qualifies as academic and scholarly. He terms it "critical university studies," the label tallying with "critical legal studies," "critical race studies", etc. in their common focus upon "the ways in which current practices serve power or wealth and contribute to injustice or inequality rather than social hope."
It is tempting for conservatives, libertarians, and neoliberals, too, to regard this conception as ideologically-loaded and narrowly-envisioned. In fact, the leftist critique of higher education as outlined by Williams has much to offer critiques from the Right--and vice versa. They may have different reasons but they often have the same targets, for instance,
-----university leaders who are beholden to deep pockets of one kind or another;
-----bloated and costly university administrations that function the way bureaucracies always do, that is, self-justification and self-preservation;
-----the reliance upon adjunct and graduate student labor;
-----the compromise of intellectual standards so that the institution may continue running smoothly;
-----the rise of "spin" and campus marketing.
Williams wants to plant critical university studies into the curriculum, and he seems to acknowledge a bias problem at the end when he says, "teaching the university does not presuppose any political position." To prove it, though, let's see some of the books listed above on the syllabus.