Examining Academic Capitalism in Canada Charly Zuk

Lightning Talk

Purpose of the Research

It is an unavoidable and unfortunate fact that university is costly. This research study, called “Examining Academic Capitalism ” helps provides insight regarding why post-secondary education is so expansive and academic capitalism’s impact on students.

Since the 1960s, Canadian university degrees were seen as the path to profitable economic output and the notion to produce greater incomes of financial returns for both citizens and communities. Once seen as the golden ticket to success, university degrees have now helped create a world of overqualified baristas and increased student debt. Through a grounding theoretical lens, I hope to research the impact capitalism has on the Canadian post-secondary education system. Within this study, I examine Canada’s history of higher education, the current role of faculties and programs, and universities’ corporate relationships. The importance of this research relies on reviewing academic integrity in Canadian universities to evaluate whether or academic capitalism is overruling education, and as a result, threatening the core academic values of learning and education for professors and students.

The aim of this study was to discover what students think, feel, and believe about their past or current postsecondary education, what price is too high for postsecondary education, and whether education should be partially subsidized, free, or full price


The critical theory of capitalism is the underpinning basis of my research on university culture and academic capitalism. The theory of Capitalism is that of an economic structure in which the mechanisms of development are controlled by private individuals (Amadeo, 2020). Capitalist ownership means that shareholders regulate the sources of development and derive their profits from their wealth (Amadeo, 2020). Through the lens of capitalism, operating a university in such ways would give shareholders the opportunity to enrol unlimited amounts of students, cut spending costs and inevitably increase profits. Similar to today’s Canadian society, universities compete against each other for the greatest value. Capitalism would claim to explain and translate how universities and colleges react to such wild market demands. Where information and knowledge is extremely valuable, academic capitalism explains how universities and colleges are now purchasing and selling commodified education.

Grounding Theory

Grounding theory helps explain the notion of capitalism regarding today’s Canadian university culture and its impact on student and faculty. Using a grounding theory approach helps identify themes and correlations. The data collected will depend on students and faculty’s experiences, in turn providing me with real insight on the current university experience and potentially creating a whole new avenue of investigations that had not been originally considered. As a relatable and humanizing research design, a grounding approach helped encourage a neutral scope and help me collect more information to justify my investigations. For such a large theory surrounding the university experience and academic capitalism, it is more effective to have a great deal of data and trim out the unnecessary information, rather than a limited amount of data and having to launch a new analysis approach to discover more. Grounded theory stresses empiric evaluation and accurate interpretation, which will generate insightful analyses. Overall the use of grounding theory offers a rich explanation and an ability to view and consider behaviour.


An online survey was used to collect data from students aged 18-30 in Canada in order to gain insight into their postsecondary education perceptions and attitudes.

A mixed method approach was used to group and understand text-based responses during data collection.


About The researcher

Charly Zuk is a Ryerson University fourth-year Professional Communication undergraduate. Throughout her undergraduate study, Charly focused her writing and research on storytelling strategies and information dissemination theories. Charly’s time at Ryerson helped her to deeply investigate and learn about capitalism, ableism, feminism, patriarchy, and racism, as well as their effect on society today. Charly has developed the capacity to comprehend and address the exceedingly difficult and diverse demands of the twenty-first century. Charly has worked with Toronto’s most respectable not-for-profit foundation, SickKids, and has taken a communication position at a specialty pharmacy upon graduating from Ryerson. Charly plans to return to school to earn a degree in mental health and addiction.

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Charly Zuk