I have a new paper out online: “Academics as rent seekers: distorted incentives in higher education, with reference to the South African case”. The first draft of this was prompted by a 2013 call for papers linked to the Council on Higher Education’s 20 Year Review of Higher Education.
The behavior of academics and academic institutions is examined through the concept of rent seeking, in which organizations or individuals expend resources to obtain ‘artificially contrived transfers’. International ranking systems, publication-based incentives, and grant awarding processes, all encourage and reward rent seeking behavior: participants engage in distorted, costly behavior to obtain rewards, including public funds, without regard to the social value of these activities. This may be especially damaging in developing countries. Detailed examples from South Africa’s higher education system illustrate such behavior and its relation to policy. The paper concludes by sketching an outline of some possible solutions.