As universities respond to a prolonged period of economic rationalism there appears to be resignation, for the most part, that the role of a university is not what it once was. By adopting the operational strictures of economy, efficiency and performance, many universities are behaving like and being run as though they were a business. The term ‘corporate university’ now carries much meaning and has been the subject of significant discourse over the last decade. Resource limitations, political influences and competitive pressures are commonplace with implications for the way in which a university can fulfil a role in society, however that is defined. In this paper we consider the notion of corporate citizenship and ask whether this concept is relevant to the role of a university in Australia and New Zealand. In these countries universities are substantially (although progressively less so) funded by the government and are public service entities. The application of corporate citizenship to universities serves to highlight the duality of these institutions, which operate like corporations, and yet have more obvious historically based obligations to society. The comparison also suggests that as corporations are becoming more aware of the long-term benefits of a societal role for business entities that universities appear to be moving in the opposite direction. With a few exceptions academics have been reluctant to engage in public debates. They have progressively lost control of their working environment. The risk is that the public interest will have no place in the corporatised university of the 21st century unless academics increase their critic and conscience activities.
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