Commodification of Academic Research in Emerging Countries

Dana Minbaeva*, Bahtiyar O. Minbayev

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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In this paper we explore potential barriers for commodification of academic research in emerging countries.

We carried out an exploratory study employing a mixed-method sequential exploratory design. Initially, qualitative interviews were performed to identify cognitive, structural, and ideological barriers associated with commodification. Subsequently, we administered a survey at three universities in Kazakhstan to gather quantitative data. The quantitative insights served to complement our qualitative findings and facilitate the interpretation of the observed patterns within the broader population.

We found that a too rapid shift toward commercialization exacerbated concerns among faculty members and created obstacles to commodification. The obstacles identified through inductive clustering of themes from exploratory qualitative interviews were grouped into three intentionally broad categories: cognitive, structural, and ideological barriers. We argue that in emerging economies, the path to commodifying academic research should start with developing local infrastructure to address identified structural, cognitive, and ideological barriers. This, in turn, will lead to more successful commercialization and redefine the role of academics in society.

Research limitations/implications
Our study has several limitations related to its empirical scope. We concentrated solely on one country, Kazakhstan. For future research, it is crucial to broaden the investigation to include more studies from the Central Asia region and other emerging economies. We believe that while there may be some minor institutional differences, the findings are generalizable to all post-socialist countries. However, incorporating a diverse range of institutions, particularly those with foreign ownership or private capital, would enhance the comprehensiveness of the findings. Furthermore, collecting a more extensive and balanced sample of responses from industry partners, academics, and students would have provided more valuable insights. By including a broader representation of stakeholders, we could have gained a more nuanced understanding of the complexities surrounding commodification in higher education. Given the exploratory nature of this study, it is essential to regard the findings as a source of inspiration rather than empirical confirmation.

Practical implications
Our research has practical implications for managing universities in emerging markets, as well as important policy implications, both for international actors and local governmental bodies.

Social implications
Our findings carry implications for policymakers. The focus that international institutions place on the matter of commodification and commercialization of knowledge is a positive step. Challenges emerge when this matter is approached with a narrow perspective. Drawing on the empirical context of the Republic of Kazakhstan, a country often overlooked in the literature on emerging markets, we find evidence that knowledge has indeed transformed into a commodity. The rapid shift toward commercialization, driven by substantial institutional pressures, may have occurred too precipitously in this particular context. In light of these findings, we advocate for a more balanced and contextually nuanced discourse concerning both the commodification and commercialization of knowledge.

This study represents one of the few endeavors into exploring commodification within the context of emerging economies. In recent decades, universities have faced substantial pressures to commodify academic research. While there has been a significant volume of research discussing and documenting the success of commodification in developed country universities, those in emerging economies have faced similar pressures without achieving comparable success. This paper delves into the reasons why.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Emerging Markets
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

Epub ahead of print. Published online: 15. March 2024.


  • Emerging markets
  • Commodification
  • Academic knowledge

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