Academic Fault Lines

American public higher education is in crisis. After decades of public scrutiny over affordability, access, and quality, indictments of the institution as a whole abound. Campus leaders and faculty report a loss of public trust and respect resulting from their alleged unresponsiveness to demands for change. But is this loss of confidence warranted? And how did we get to this point?

The Ascendance of “Industry logic.” In Academic Fault Lines, Patricia J. Gumport offers a compelling account of the profound shift in societal expectations for what public colleges and universities should be and do. She characterizes the changes over several decades as “industry logic,” with imperatives for higher education to prioritize serving the economy. Arguing that industry logic has had far-reaching effects, Gumport shows how this business-oriented mandate has prompted colleges to restructure for efficiency, use metrics, adopt more corporate forms, develop deeper ties with industry, and mold academic programs to enhance students’ future employment prospects. She also explains how industry logic gained traction and momentum, altering what constitutes legitimacy for public higher education.

Stories of success in strengthening fundamental public values. Gumport’s narrative is ultimately optimistic. Drawing on case studies of 9 public colleges and universities (community colleges, comprehensive state universities, research universities) as well as more than 200 interviews, Gumport’s account conveys the successful efforts of leaders and educators to persevere through daunting challenges and identify opportunities to serve in new ways, even to strengthen fundamental public values—such as educational access, knowledge areas regardless of currency, and civic responsibility. Academic Fault Lines demonstrates how intrepid faculty and administrators engaged their communities both on and off campus, collaborating strategically and inventing win-win scenarios to further public higher education’s legacy of service to all citizens while ensuring its centrality to society and the world.

Guidelines for effective leadership. The book’s case study analyses yield valuable guidelines on effective leadership for today’s campus administrators and faculty. The future vitality of public higher education depends upon its leaders—on their combining a passion for educational values with a compelling and inspiring vision, in order to skillfully and forcefully articulate a democratic agenda while balancing the vagaries of economic pressures and imperatives.

Johns Hopkins University Press and Amazon orders available now.

Full Citation: Gumport, Patricia J. (2019). Academic Fault Lines: The Rise of Industry Logic in Public Higher Education. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Table of Contents


Introduction. Points of Departure
1. Conceptual and Empirical Anchors: Studying Institutional Change
Part I. The Ascendance of Industry Logic
2. Built to Serve
3. State-Level Expectations
4. Forces Converging to Advance Industry Logic

Part II. Community Colleges
5. Beyond the Demand-Response Scenario
6. Harmonizing Educational Identities

Part III. Comprehensive State Universities
7. Reconciling Competing Mandates
8. Persevering through Strategic Necessities

Part IV. Research Universities
9. In Pursuit of Excellence
10. Pursuing Priorities and Striving for State of the Art

Conclusion. Managing for Legitimacy: Moving beyond Academic Fault Lines
Works Cited
Online Materials

Reviewer Quotes

“An extraordinarily well-researched, well-written, and important book by one of the most eminent scholars of higher education writing today. In elegant and insightful prose, Gumport provides abundant evidence not only of the myriad causes for the rise of industry logic, but also of the many successful efforts of administrators and governing boards to preserve and even strengthen those fundamental public virtues of civic responsibility, diversity, and the preservation of liberal arts. Finding valuable patterns in the bewilderingly complex nonsystem of US public higher education, Academic Fault Lines is comprehensive and informed by rich qualitative research.” (D. Bruce Johnstone, Emeritus Professor, State University of New York at Buffalo, coeditor of Universities and Colleges as Economic Drivers: Measuring Higher Education’s Role in Economic Development)
“A comprehensive, conceptually coherent, research-informed portrayal of the remarkable transition toward industry logic in all sectors of higher education during the late twentieth century. Gumport’s writing is some of the best I’ve seen in our field: clear, concise, and evocative but also appropriately qualified and rigorous. The chapters on the nine case study campuses are perceptive and convincing. An important contribution.” (James Hearn, University of Georgia, coeditor of The Public Research University: Serving the Public Good in New Times)
“This is a tour-de-force review of institutional and sociological theories that interprets college case studies of the ascendancy of industry logic over a 30-year time period. With a focus on social discourses of campus administrators and faculty and detailed document analysis, Dr. Gumport creates a nuanced account of the way industry ideologies unevenly shaped campuses’ academic restructuring.” (Adrianna Kezar, University of Southern California, author of How Colleges Change: Understanding, Leading, and Enacting Change)
“While acknowledging that higher education in the United States has been moving during the last few decades from an academic to a more commercial ‘logic,’ or rationale, Patricia Gumport marshals in-depth evidence from nine case studies of a diverse set of colleges to point out that changes undergone by colleges are much more varied and nuanced than is widely recognized. Calling on not only her extensive scholarly and research skills but also a decade of upper-tier administrative experience, Gumport has crafted a thought-provoking examination of the power and potential of skilled administrators and faculty leaders to shape their own fate.” (W. Richard Scott, Stanford University, coauthor of Higher Education and Silicon Valley: Connected but Conflicted)