Notes on higher education bureaucracy and its costs

Tyler Cowen:

In fact, many of the smartest young people I know are deciding against a career in academia, even if that was their initial intent. They see too much bureaucracy and not enough time for the academic work itself. Students in the biosciences, at least the ones I talk to, seem to be an exception, perhaps because the opportunities to change the world are so obvious.

In my own field, economics, the prospect of having to do a “pre-doc” and then six years for a Ph.D. is driving away creative talent. On the research side, there is an obsession with finding the correct empirical techniques for causal inference. Initially a merited and beneficial development, this approach is becoming an intellectual straitjacket. There are too many papers focusing on a suitably narrow topic to make the causal inference defensible, rather than trying to answer broader, more useful but also more difficult questions.

…As committee obligations, paperwork and referee reports accumulate, the idea that academia allows you to be in charge of your own time seems ever more distant. Bureaucratization is eating away at the free time of professors. Much of the glamour of the job is gone, and my fear is that the system increasingly attracts conformists.