Higher Education as a Luxury Good

17 New York University Journal of Law & Business 153 (2020)

University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law Research Paper 2021/015

57 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2021 Last revised: 19 Aug 2021

See all articles by Haochen Sun

Haochen Sun

The University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Law

Date Written: April 20, 2021

Abstract

The 2019 college admissions bribery scandal revealed uncomfortable truths about elite higher education and its conspicuous consumption. In this article, I explore the legal implications of treating higher education as a luxury good reflecting wealth and status. Like luxury goods companies, elite universities are regarded as owners of luxury brands. Just as companies such as Louis Vuitton, Ferrari, and Hermes own brands that enjoy a high level of exclusivity and serve conspicuous consumption, so too do elite universities. In the minds of many, Harvard, Stanford, and Yale are analogous to Louis Vuitton, Ferrari, and Hermes.

This “luxurification” of higher education, however, perpetuates class division and violates the right to education by favoring students from families who can pay the tuition. In response, I put forward an intellectual property-based proposal as a new means of protecting the right to education. While their trademarks can be regarded luxury brands, I suggest that elite universities should responsibly exercise their intellectual properties, thereby making knowledge accessible to the general public through open access and fair use modes. Through fulfilling such responsibility, elite universities would enable students from all walks of life to benefit from the democratization of knowledge.

Keywords: Elite University, Luxury Brand, Trademark, Right to Higher Education, Open Access, Fair Use

Suggested Citation

Sun, Haochen, Higher Education as a Luxury Good (April 20, 2021). 17 New York University Journal of Law & Business 153 (2020), University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law Research Paper 2021/015, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3830402 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3830402

Haochen Sun (Contact Author)

The University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Law ( email )

Pokfulam Road
Hong Kong, Hong Kong
China

HOME PAGE: http://www0.hku.hk/law/faculty/staff/sun_haochen.html

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