The Perfect Storm for Universities

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Even if universities may look well on the surface there is an increasing (and justified) concern that all will change soon. New data and analysis increase the anxiety that the current monopoly of higher education will be lost and just few universities will survive. No one knows which, how many or even if any university will have the chance to celebrate the middle of this century. Deafened by the noise of various bureaucrats and mediocre academics interested to say only what their masters like to hear, some universities and academic groups struggle to see beyond fads and slogans what is shaping the future that will change their existence. This hidden uneasiness is justified. An increasing number of disruptive factors – adding to the obvious and massive impact of Internet and online education – already are changing the landscape for higher education: the significant increase of youth isolation and marginalization, graduate unemployment and persistent underemployment, a concerning economic forecast of a constant slowdown of global growth (with implications for numbers of international students) and issues evolving from the global ageing population (and implications on lifelong learning strategies and numbers of local students). There is even more on the horizon and – while teaching and learning are still organized within university walls by models designed in early 1960s – the pace of change is accelerating.

We will succinctly look here at some of these factors and see how they build a perfect storm that will change the landscape for universities and our future. Higher education is at the crossroads and tremendous changes are now starting to unravel.

Euro crisis and higher education

There is an important warning for universities in the recent street protests of millions of Europeans. This is not only because Europe’s Budget Crisis Hits Universities, but they are bearing the cost of stubbornly staying in denial and avoiding inconvenient truths. There was a time when an honest and direct dealing with those inconvenient facts about dysfunctional policies, corruption or structural issues was the key to avoid the current turmoil. Soon it will be clear if similar problems will drive universities, which are displaying a confidence and arrogance very similar with what was common in Brussels in the last decade, to the same path. In Europe it has become tragically clear that this was a recipe for disaster. These problems cannot be solved as long as EU elites are proving to be incapable of dealing realistically with their own problems, making the disastrous choice of supporting and protecting its financial centres while leaving youth with no hope for a decent future. Youth unemployment and marginalization in Europe has reached in a very short time proportions that were just unimaginable less than ten years ago. This will have immense implications for the long-term. Only 34% of Europeans aged between 15 and 29 were employed in 2011, this being the lowest figure ever recorded by the Eurostat. Since 2009 all projected economic outlooks for Europe have proved to be too optimistic for a dysfunctional union living in a state of delusion.

Scenes seen in the last months of 2012 with riot police at the front door of the European Commission is a rich metaphor, but troops cannot be sufficient for the increasing frustration and indignation of citizens ruined by a model of governance based on the constant refusal of an elite to deal with reality. Arrogance, a love for simplistic answers and the habit to promote self-deceptive fantasies against complex solutions for real challenges are responsible for the current crisis. The intense sense of frustration among “the lost generation” – now a common phrase used by the media to describe European youth – and the panic of those who see that after a life of work there is no security for tomorrow is adding pressure to hold the decision-makers responsible for their failures.

To understand why Europe is a possible source of inspiration for those still uncertain that in higher education it is the time to replace rhetoric with structural and fundamental changes we can also look at the extraordinary remarks of Georges Haddad, Director of the Education Research and Foresight branch of UNESCO. Talking about UNESCO’s work on higher education, he bravely approached some facts that look equally valid for most universities:

The most important thing to UNESCO is just the appearance. We say ‘Education for All’ and ‘lifelong learning’ and the ministers are happy because they listen to what they want to hear […] UNESCO used to be a laboratory of ideas, and look what it produced in the 1960s and 1970s. Now it’s conservative. They are completely scared of political sanctions.

Universities are scared of these and many other things – the truth is that they have to fight hard to become again laboratories of ideas. The pressure of these factors may irritate again those use to listening only “to what they want to hear”, but ignoring them will not make anything disappear.

Marco Mancini, the president of the Conference of Italian University Rectors, said this year that Italian universities are facing “the risk of the collapse of the system”. In the same month, students protesting across UK summarized in just three words what is now affecting now university graduates: dis-empowerment, marginalization and unemployment. Their frustration may come from the fact that education is blocked by obsolete models of teaching, structured under a business model of a for-profit industry clashing with the ideals of quality education.  Graduates cannot cope with contemplating the prospect of unemployment or underemployment.

A crisis of higher education (that we cannot longer ignore)

It is widely accepted that we already have a serious crisis in higher education. For example, we can see this reflected by results on a US national poll sponsored by TIME and Carnegie Corporation and conducted by GfK Custom Research North America in October 2012. This national research used a sample of 1,000 U.S. adults and 540 senior administrators at public and private two- and four-year colleges and universities. Results revealed that 89% of U.S. adults and 96% of senior administrators at colleges and universities said higher education is in crisis, and almost half of both groups considered the crisis to be “severe”. We can just hope that this time, data and evidence will not be ignored just because they are not aligned with the commonly accepted mantras.

This situation should require at least some answers from those who said for the last decade that “academia should learn from business” and that efficiency and (financial) surplus is all that matters. Most probably in time the same voices will lecture the same audiences how obviously silly it was to accept as viable the abdication and abandonment of principles of academic freedom and intellectual autonomy. They will note that eroding the core of academic life for the enthusiastic adoption of the principles of market mechanisms was the central cause of the cataclysmic landscape of higher education that they face.

Michael Sandel, professor of Government at Harvard University and one of the best known intellectuals around the world recently noted:

The most fateful change that unfolded in the last three decades was not an increase in greed. It was the expansion of markets, and of market values, into spheres of life where they don’t belong.”

Universities are set to learn that this is not only true, but see the serious consequences of ignoring implications of this on their sustainability.

Unfortunately, the hegemony of a unique paradigm based on a neo-liberal policy and management framework still restricts the collective imagination to look for and apply alternative solutions. The marketization and McDonaldization of higher education came with a great price for universities, economies and the future of our economic growth. The most important part may be that this unique model – aggressively promoted by conservatives as the only sane solution for higher education – suppressed a genuine debate on a variety of issues of crucial importance for universities in the 21st century.

An obsolete model of teaching and a parallel way of learning

In “Leisure College, USA: The Decline in Student Study Time”, a study published in 2010, Philip Babcock and Mindy Marks summarized the research on the changes in the last four decades of study time allocated by students enrolled in US universities:

In 1961, the average full-time student at a four-year college in the United States studied about twenty-four hours per week, while his modern counterpart puts in only fourteen hours per week. Students now study less than half as much as universities claim to require. This dramatic decline in study time occurred for students from all demographic subgroups, for students who worked and those who did not, within every major, and at four-year colleges of every type, degree structure, and level of selectivity. Most of the decline predates the innovations in technology that are most relevant to education and thus was not driven by such changes. The most plausible explanation for these findings, we conclude, is that standards have fallen at post-secondary institutions in the United States.”

Research also indicates that time allocated toward leisure increased on average with nine hours per week between 1961 and the 2000s. It will be naive to consider this just a North American situation as similar studies around the world are in line with Babcock’s findings. The change is substantial, constant and globalized. In “The first year experience in Australian universities. Findings from 1994 to 2009” we find data reflecting a very similar evolution in Australia: “…it is apparent that first year students time spend less time in private study compared with five years ago: 10.6 hours on average per week in 2009 compared with 11 hours in 2004”

Along with a constant decrease of time spent in campus, in class and in private study it is also documented an increasing number of students reporting the intention of deferring university enrollment “because they dislike study”.

The most interesting part is that this constant decrease allocated to study is doubled by a constant increase in grades. The increasing average of students’ grades is proportionally aligned with the constant decrease of time, work and interest on studying at university. Moreover, the enthusiasm of the first year of study in the university – documented as being crucial for the academic evolution of students – is affected by other factors as documented by the Australian study.

It is more evident these days that the simple increase of student numbers is not related to a better quality or academic rigor of university standards.

We cannot simplistically consider that most students today are not interested in study or refuse to make the effort to build an educated mind: another recent report suggests that students spend more time preparing for class than their instructors think they do and – even if “research has shown that today’s students spend fewer hours hitting the books than their parents did […] faculty also appear to expect less from students than they have in the past“. Here we can see that expectations and standards are not set by students.

The constant decline of time devoted to study can also be analyzed taking into consideration the simple fact that students these days learn differently. Consistent research has already proven that learning has been profoundly changed by the Internet and new technologies. A current fad is simply to move courses to online mediums using learning taxonomies, which are intellectually simplistic and philosophically naive ways to organize content. There is no reason to think that these forms can answer the current learning needs of the contemporary student. 

Designing learning in line with models developed for the middle of the last century when iPads were not even imagined by science-fiction writers is simply absurd and should be a major concern for modern universities.

“Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”

This well-known quote from “The Wizard of Oz” sums up the feelings of dismay and confusion of decision-makers of universities globally.

In 2005 a survey from the University of California which polled American undergraduates over 30 years found that 71 percent of students said that making more money was a very important reason for them to go to college. In 1976, the same survey found that only 49 percent of students found making money an important reason to go to college. This shift in motivation was summarized by PBS by quoting Devon Brown, a 16-year-old from Washington, D.C.: “I’m not just going to college for myself to learn something new […] I could do that on my own without paying for a degree. I’m going to college because it’s not easy to get by financially today and you need a college degree to get a well-paying job. It’s definitely the investment, not an intellectual experience that I’m going for.”

The problem is that this investment is not as simple as it used to be and many prospective students confront the prospect of serious debts and unemployment. In the US, media reports 1 in 2 new graduates are jobless or underemployed. In the UK it is officially reported that over 40% of graduates cannot find graduate-level jobs and that their job prospects continue to decline. There is no doubt that it is still very important to be educated, but the uncertainty of this investment is documented and reported across Europe, North America, Africa and Asia.

This uncertainty is a major factor of change for higher education. Students now question the wisdom of taking out a significant loan no longer seeing that a university degree will set them up for life. Universities are seeing their model crushing before their eyes. Regrettably, many universities have treated their students for a long time as faceless cash-cows held hostage to their market of information, skills, certification and qualifications. To undo this may be harder than it seems. However, economic forecasts and the impact of mostly disastrous governmental policies on higher education (reduced to the stunningly simplistic ideas of “cuts”, “efficiency” and “austerity”) we can expect to see an acceleration in the current drop in enrollments. What problems can we now expect when in Europe fourteen million young people are at home disconnected from education, training and work?

In May 2012, Time published an interesting analysis of possible causes of college enrolment decline, it started by noting:

“Harvard, Yale and a few other selective universities may be announcing record numbers of applications for the semester beginning in the fall, but higher-education officials are fretting about ominous signs that overall college enrolment is starting to drop.”

Higher education monopoly on accreditation can also change relatively fast with the emergence of new forms of vocational accreditation and study. The validity of this monopoly is further eroded by the increasing numbers of underemployed and unemployed graduates.

Universities need to be aware that by avoiding unpleasant realities and choosing to listen to the reaffirming voices, they are not preparing for the perfect storm. As educators, it is imperative that we respond in such a way to intrinsically motivate and engage students’ imaginations, nurture their critical thinking, creativity and capacity for knowledge creation.

New challenges

Statistical data reveals that there is another tornado approaching higher education and economic growth. This is represented by youth marginalization. An entire generation is now discovering that the long held belief that education is the way to find a decent job is just a lie or, at the best, overrated. Around the world, an increasing number of graduates are realising that very few jobs are available to young people and that most of those available do not require a university degree. The impact on the medium and long-term economic sustainability and social costs are already worrying governments, placing education at the center of an intense debate.

Since 2008 youth unemployment has risen in Europe by 1.5 million, to 21% in 2011. Data collected by Eurostat reveals the terrifying reality of 7.5 million young people aged 15–24 and the additional 6.5 million young people aged 25–29 excluded from the labour market and education in Europe. The so-called “NEETs” – youth Not in Employment, Education or Training – come with almost incalculable costs and risks for the future of Europe. The United Nations’ International Labour Office report released this year exposed the fact that youth unemployment is mostly unchanged since the peak registered in 2009. With a worrying 12.6 per cent in 2011 and a projected increase for 2012, global youth unemployment is already affecting over 75 million people. The report states: “In comparison to other groups on the labour market, youth face a particularly difficult situation, as is captured by the ratio of youth-to-adult unemployment rates. Globally, this ratio was 2.8 in 2011 and is projected at 2.7 in 2012. This means that, in comparison with adults, youth continue to be almost three times as likely to be unemployed, and elevated unemployment rates continue to hit them disproportionally.” No one should be surprised that youth take the streets to express their fury and frustration.

Untitled.001Recent reports reveal that in The United States “about 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor’s degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless or underemployed, the highest share in at least 11 years […] Broken down by occupation, young college graduates were heavily represented in jobs that require a high school diploma or less. In the last year, they were more likely to be employed as waiters, waitresses, bartenders and food-service helpers than as engineers, physicists, chemists and mathematicians combined“.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, tuition costs have increased an average of 15% in just two years and student debt is now over $1 trillion dollars. With only one in two young people finding a job it is also important to note that 54% of all new jobs across all sectors of the US economy have been temporary positions since June 2009. Of course, the vast majority of these temporary positions are occupied by young people. Emergent economies, like China, register the same problem with masses of graduates (articles available here and here)

OECD_2The European Union registered an unprecedented youth unemployment rate of 22.8% in September 2012. In Greece and Spain the rate was over 50%. Furthermore, the UK is now registering 40% of graduates cannot find graduate-level work after two years from gaining their degrees. In a recent article on this topic Andrew Sum, Director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in the US, summed the situation: “simply put, we’re failing kids coming out of college“.

These “kids coming out of college” without jobs carry with them a huge debt that is “nondischargeable”, which means that is that type of debt that cannot be eliminated through bankruptcy proceedings. In November this year The Federal Reserve Bank presented in its latest ‘Quarterly Report on Household Debt in US’ a glimpse on this reality:

“in the third quarter, non-real estate household debt jumped 2.3 percent to $2.7 trillion. The increase was due to a boost in student loans ($42 billion), auto loans ($18 billion) and credit card balances ($2 billion)”

The most significant source of this increase is represented by student loans and these are affecting now more than one in five households in the U.S. The report continues:

Outstanding student loan debt now stands at $956 billion, an increase of $42 billion since last quarter […] the percent of student loan balances 90+ days delinquent increased to 11 percent this quarter.”

In simple words, there is a stunning amount of debt and a significant increase of graduates incapable to pay it back.

The OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría recently noted at the launch of the OECD study “Divided We Stand: Why Inequality Keeps Rising”:

The social contract is starting to unravel in many countries. This study dispels the assumptions that the benefits of economic growth will automatically trickle down to the disadvantaged and that greater inequality fosters greater social mobility. Without a comprehensive strategy for inclusive growth, inequality will continue to rise.

The effects from breaking the social contract are still mostly unnoticed by universities. External pressures will change this. One source will be the increasing difficulty to find students willing to go into debt with no guarantee that a diploma will secure a better future or even the possibility to pay back tens of thousands of dollars spent on tuition fees and associated costs. Another is that the student population will reduce in time as a result of a global change in demographics, such as ageing population and reduced birth rates in the West. Moreover, the long-term effects of youth underemployment and unemployment will impact directly on companies and economies: in the “knowledge society” retired workers will hardly have replacements.

Universities were comfortable to stay aligned with popular dogmas and no voices were heard from the ivory towers to warn the citizens that the pillars were rotten, the bubbles would burst and the global financial crisis was inevitable. It is more than ever vital to revitalize academic life with parts that can genuinely engage students and have the potential to bring answers to current and future crises. A perfect example in this direction is provided by what was indicated in 1975 by the Yale University Committee on Freedom of Expression as the way to achieve the main functions of a university:

“The primary function of a university is to discover and disseminate knowledge by means of research and teaching. To fulfill this function a free interchange of ideas is necessary not only within its walls but with the world beyond as well. It follows that a university must do everything possible to ensure within it the fullest degree of intellectual freedom. The history of intellectual growth and discovery clearly demonstrates the need for unfettered freedom, the right to think the unthinkable, discuss the unmentionable, and challenge the unchallengeable.

In the middle of this storm, universities that continue to glorify mediocrity and impose compliant thinking are condemned to perish. These victims of the storm may still consider that is safer to shut their eyes and stay comfortable within the limits of the status quo. After all, this is what has worked well for the last century. However, on the day after the storm, higher education will be anything but comfortable. The era of compliance and contentment is over!

……

*This article is based on my public presentation at the Rotary Club of Sydney CBD, Australia, on the 3rd of December, 2012.

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73 comments
    • Come on Popenici
      Everything is very predictable .
      The greatest event of this decade 2010-2020 is the social responsibility of MIT Harvard and Berkeley + somehow Stanford .

      1.- Do not worry . Only research universities will stay alive . About 25-50 of them

      2.- Research universities will be able to charge still $ 50,000- 60,000 tuitions . + Many scholarships for smart srtuıdents . Nobody loses .

      3.- But middle class wins . If you want to learn and work hard , one can have a wonderful degree from MIT and Harvard sure it is not as good as MIT or Harvard degree, but still better than degree of 3000 colleges in the USA

      4.- Yes 3,500 of the 4,200 colleges, schools will be closed in 6-7 years . Sorry for them .

      If they are clever they can start getting online classes from MIT and Harvard at a vey low fee and reduce their tuition by 50 %

      see http://www.savecolleges.blogspot.com We can save about 2,000 colleges like this .
      They will die also but at least after 10-15 years later too .
      I am glad to see that Popenici is awaken too . I did not read the whole article yet .
      Thanks Popenici .
      God bless all of us .

    • Rafe Edward Trickey, Jr. – Thank you for reading and sharing! And for your kind words

  1. A couple of things that strike me in this deep and useful blog…

    Michael Sandel’s comment, “The most fateful change that unfolded in the last three decades was not an increase in greed. It was the expansion of markets, and of market values, into spheres of life where they don’t belong.”

    If only he had the additional wisdom and courage to say ‘The most fateful changes… increase of greed AND expansion of markets into spheres of life where they don’t belong…’

    This makes the failure of Universities a failure of the concept of University. It is so much more serious than being ‘set to learn that this is… true…’ the craven abdication of University to the neo-liberal agenda is akin to any act of cultural destruction on a scale to rival any historical plunder of riches, anywhere in space or time. I use my cataclysmic language advisedly. Nearing the end of my PhD process I am better able to see the strength and weakness of what I have undergone.

    So, although I totally agree the sentence, ‘Unfortunately, the hegemony of a unique paradigm based on a neo-liberal policy and management framework still restricts the collective imagination to look for and apply alternative solutions,’ it is far too polite and restrained – and I am not sure about the implicit assertion that there IS a ‘collective imagination’ left in university management to see an alternative solution. Even if the Chancellor of the Exchequer offers an open cheque for the ‘reinstatement of open research, unfettered by ‘outcome requirements’… someone would want to box it off again…

    • Dave, thanks a lot for your insightful notes. I have to say that your polite criticism is well justified – my sentence there is too polite and optimistic. I think we should work hard to have a “collective imagination” in higher education as we lost it decades ago somewhere on the market.
      There is no excuse for being vague when it is very important to be straightforward, but I was concerned that if I’ll be blunt too many who are used to look in distorted mirrors will stop reading at all (I don’t mind abuse and vitriolic e-mails). The thing is that after all these years when people were forced to repeat the mantra – you have to learn from business – and start to believe the system’s elaborate distortions of reality they are in Plato’s cave. Moving from shadows to daylight may happen in various forms…
      Your point is taken and I hope you don’t mind if I’ll use your advice to reshape the argument in the incoming book.
      Thanks again!

  2. Joelle Vandermensbrugghe said:

    Thanks for your blog – interesting read – but it also shows the many contradictions that education is facing. I was struggling a bit with the way you put all educational systems in a same mould. You write about European education institutions that ‘their frustration may come from the fact that education is blocked by obsolete models of teaching, structured under a business model of a for-profit industry clashing with the ideals of quality education’.

    In practice I think that in Europe many educational institutions still exist under the non-for profit model. That their aim stil is to teach ideas, which hopefully can help develop citizens with knowledge, open minds…… But what if this was not always compatible with employability as it is proposed by business, who may prefer people who do not think too much. A critique made to some European education institutions is that the way they operate is not realistic because it does not take into acount market rules, are not fast enough in adopting a for profit model.

    In countries who have given taken up a market model, the problem is different – and well explained in your analysis.

    The problem is complex and underlying it all are assumptions we make about society, employment.

    • Joelle, you are right! The point is that when you right a short (some say that it is already too long) you cannot nuance as much as you want. The European reality is different in the sense that the market reality is operating in a different form, but you have the same obsession with university rankings (just a decade old, this is a direct result of GATS and WTO agreements to include education into marketable commodities), the same obsolete primacy of quantitative measurements where they don’t belong and others.
      European “Austerity” is currently translated into market logic in the life of European universities.
      In UK the situation is clear, there is no point to detail here why as you most probably already know.
      True, European universities have at the core some other serious problems (nepotism, corruption, dissolution of meritocracy, overinflated bureaucracy), but this doesn’t mean that market models do not shape their realities as well. This is why I included the quote reflecting the possible effects on Italian universities.
      The obsolete part is in their way of functioning, in teaching and learning: teaching is still organized (I know there are exceptions!) by learning outcomes, Bloom’s taxonomy or recent versions of the same old and strange model.
      Employers say they want (this is documented in many studies around the world): graduates with initiative, critical thinking etc. The other part is that they like to pay these graduates with lowest possible wages and be creative and have initiative only if their new ideas are exactly the same with the employer’s ideas. A perfect example of lack of vision and stupidity.
      Disastrous effects of “for profit” utopia for higher education can already be seen in the UK. No need for Europeans to go over the oceans to see the climate of intimidation and fear, absurd decisions taken in name of an illusory immediate profit and others.
      I strongly disagree that Europe need to be more market oriented as some suggest there. they have to bring meritocracy back in universities, rebuild the culture of free thinking, genuine academic freedom, get rid of nepotism and take back the active role of an active and courageous player in the life of European society and point to the risks and opportunities ahead as they are, not as it seems to be convenient or comfortable. They should let markets and profit work where they belong and nurture in academic life the courage again to say in front of any new Inquisition that the Sun doesn’t revolve around the Earth.
      Thanks for your important questions – really complete the picture here and add some important nuances.

  3. I’m interested – do you have any suggestions as to how teaching should be measured / valued and learning should be measured / valued? Also the fact that society in general, not just educational establishments, is a big influential factor? (Childcare, peers, social care, etc)

    • I think that there are other priorities for teaching and learning than measurement. This is already overdone with a grade of simplicity and ignorance that can only amaze anyone thinking seriously about education and what it takes to build an educated mind. An answer to your question is already provided by Finland: less interested to measure in an industrial manner learning and teaching “outcomes” they looked to enhance continuously the social status of teachers and their role in society, environment of schools/unis, training etc. This obsession with measurement for “efficiency” (translated with no nuances from factory plants) is part of the market logic in areas where they don’t belong.
      Society in general is a very important factor – but universities are the engine and have the responsibility to these societies: think that teachers are “created” in universities, that educational policies are greatly influenced by politicians and academics (sometimes academics have the lead on this), teacher training and educational solutions are also designed many times by universities. Society is shaped more than we think by how our universities understand their social responsibility.

  4. langguj said:

    Thanks for a deeply insightful blog. Yours is the most thorough and nuanced account of the changes underway in higher education that I have yet encountered. I especially like your emphasis on imagination and collaboration with respect to the future of the university, and I think you and Sandel are exactly right about the devastating effects of neoliberal styles of management and market values on higher education. One thing I wonder about is what you take to be the future of the more traditional small liberal arts college in such a landscape. Your vision of the future emphasizes imagination, engagement with the world, research, collaboration, openness, and freeing ourselves from outmoded models of teaching and learning. On the other hand, you seem to recognize the value of more traditional scholarly activities such as reading actual books, thinking critically, and what might still be left of the “contemplative life.” As a philosophy professor, I still, perhaps naively, believe that the best introduction to such activities occurs in a face to face setting with a small group of students in something like the now threatened “traditional classroom.” Hubert Dreyfus, Sherry Turkle, Nicholas Carr, and others have called attention to the limitations and dangers of “technologically enhanced learning”, emphasizing the way that technology invisibly and incrementally alters our environments and ourselves in ways not always conducive to contemplation, critical thought, and deep engagement with difficult texts. Are these concerns that you share?

    Jerome Langguth

    • This is my reply to Jerome langguth Philosophy Professor:
      Yes face to face setting with a small group of students is the best introduction as you say .
      But where are you living ? Is it possible at all ? 310 million USA citizen complains that colleges are expensive, quality of colloges is not good .( They are face to face )
      That is the reason , we ( at least me as an engineer ) ask for ” technologically enhanced learning ”
      Fortunately we have reached the best ( so far ) solution . MITx + Harvardx + Berkeleyx
      ONLINE for the world , best quality + at least fee + open to every one + degrees later .
      I am pragmatic Jerome . I love philosophers . I remember in philosophy ” there is no right or wrong ”
      I follow the path to support MITx Harvardx .
      But it is really wonderful to follow these very philosophical discussion . I learn a lot . Thanks billion .

    • @Jerome Langguth – Thank you for note and kind words. It is very much appreciated.
      I think that “imagination, engagement with the world, research, collaboration, openness, and freeing ourselves from outmoded models of teaching and learning” have to be based on academic freedom and academic responsibility. Again, where was Academia to let the citizens know that an unprecedented economic crisis may come with devastating effects for their lives and societies? Where were thousands of academics and PhD students in political sciences, Middle East studies etc. to say that an imminent uprising of youth is imminent in the Arab world (and say something about possible consequences)? Higher education changed the metaphor of ivory towers with that of a neoliberal bastion where immediate profit and internal politics of academic tribes focused to keep a comfortable status quo is all that matter. This turn already comes with an immense bill for all.
      Your question regarding technology is also very important. I just wrote that ‘universities ignore some simple facts: technology is a tool, not an aim and definitely not a solution on itself. Moreover, technology is now an integral part of students’ life and this comes with some serious implications for learning. As I noted in my article, the simple translation of old learning outcomes and naive taxonomies in online forms is not answering anything. Students are equally lost and find the entire exercise ridiculous and meaningless.’ It is documented (there are some fascinating studies on how Google changes the way we memorize and many others) that technology “invisibly and incrementally alters our environments and ourselves”. Technology changed the way students learn and process information – as educators is our responsibility to help our students find sense in this new world and adapt. This is how we’ll be able to build educated minds capable of critical thinking and responsible engagement in the social life.

  5. Thanks for this interesting and thought provoking blog
    I agree entirely with the statement ‘Designing learning in line with models developed for the middle of the last century when iPads were not even imagined by science-fiction writers is simply absurd and should be a major concern for modern universities’
    I don’t think there has been a serious, well thought out and holistic approach as to how technology can be used to improve the education universities provide. In fact the question is can it improve it? My belief is it can, but not on it’s own.

    Jerom writes ‘Hubert Dreyfus, Sherry Turkle, Nicholas Carr, and others have called attention to the limitations and dangers of “technologically enhanced learning”, emphasizing the way that technology invisibly and incrementally alters our environments and ourselves in ways not always conducive to contemplation, critical thought, and deep engagement with difficult texts’.
    If technology is used intelligently, in the appropriate manner at the appropriate time it can enhance education, but traditional teaching is still the major part of the mix but using technology.I often hear the technology in education debate as an either or scenario. The danger is that some see technology as the only way forward, it patently is not, but we have to accept the fact that students of today are digitally connected they expect anywhere anytime content but not exclusively so. Studies of lecture capture systems along with anecdotal evidence and my own experience have repeatedly shown that students like to have face to face lectures but they also like the ability to connect to the content at a later date for example for revision purposes. Of course the systems can also be used for ‘flipping’ but I will not go into that here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flip_teaching

    I have no doubt that universities in their current form are an endangered species and many will fall by the way side but if they wake up to the fact that unstoppable forces are at play here it is not too late to do something about it if they want, and deserve, to survive.

    The societal questions highlighted by Stefan are very concerning. Remember, this is not just about graduates getting jobs it is also about the people they are displacing in the workplace when graduates are working in reataurants and bars etc.
    The fact ‘fourteen million young people are at home disconnected from education, training and work’ is really quite scary. This at a time when retirement ages across Europe are rising therfore reducing the number of job openinigs, although the impact of this is soem years away.
    All in all a very sobering situation.

    • Nigel, many thanks for your insightful notes and detailed comment. I agree with your note “I don’t think there has been a serious, well thought out and holistic approach as to how technology can be used to improve the education universities provide. In fact the question is can it improve it? My belief is it can, but not on it’s own.” I can add that my opinion is that universities ignore some simple facts: technology is a tool, not an aim and definitely not a solution on itself. Moreover, technology is now an integral part of students’ life and this comes with some serious implications for learning. As I noted in my article, the simple translation of old learning outcomes and naive taxonomies in online forms is not answering anything. Students are equally lost and find the entire exercise ridiculous and meaningless.
      I also fully agree with this: “I have no doubt that universities in their current form are an endangered species and many will fall by the way side but if they wake up to the fact that unstoppable forces are at play here it is not too late to do something about it if they want, and deserve, to survive.” We’ll see soon if universities realize that structural changes must replace fads, slogans and Potemkin villages…

  6. Stefan
    I agree with your statement about technology being tools. This is exactly the term I use when presenting on technology in education.
    The technologies, whichever they are, are simply tools. A tool being something that enables one to do a better, more professional job, sometimes but not always more easily. The trick is selecting the correct tool or tool kit.
    I would not use a hammer and screwdriver to chisel a channel in concrete. It is possible, but you will be there a long time and the screwdriver would be useless at the end of the job.
    This relates to my comment about intelligent use of the tools at ones disposal, including non technological ones.
    I wonder, if we were designing a university or equivalent today with out the historical baggage what the result would be? I suspect it would be quite a different beast to waht we have now.
    .

    • Nigel, it will be for sure a very different beast. This is why I write about the need of structural changes. I doubt this will happen before the heat will turn too intense to be ignored. This may be 2013 or 2015.. no one knows exactly when, but I think it will happen soon enough to see it.

  7. Reblogged this on Diana Brydon and commented:
    “Deafened by the noise of various bureaucrats and mediocre academics interested to say only what their masters like to hear, some universities and academic groups struggle to see beyond fads and slogans what is shaping the future that will change their existence. This hidden uneasiness is justified. An increasing number of disruptive factors – adding to the obvious and massive impact of Internet and online education – already are changing the landscape for higher education: the significant increase of youth isolation and marginalization, graduate unemployment and persistent underemployment, a concerning economic forecast of a constant slowdown of global growth (with implications for numbers of international students) and issues evolving from the global ageing population (and implications on lifelong learning strategies and numbers of local students). There is even more on the horizon and – while teaching and learning are still organized within university walls by models designed in early 1960s – the pace of change is accelerating.

  8. Reblogged this on As the Adjunctiverse Turns and commented:
    Perfect storms, anxiety justified, oh my. Go tell the Jeremiahs, it’s even worse than they think but can’t all be chalked up to just disruptive innovations of the massively online tech persuasion. Oh rose thou are sick: we’ve known it for some time… signed mine canaries

    • Many thanks, John! I have found the article in The Economist just this week. Very interesting indeed!

  9. steve said:

    Great piece, Stefan. Having been involved in education from a trustee level, while also seeing the cost of education for my own children, it is a storm like no other. Definitely in need of an overhaul and refocus. With projects like developed by Peter Thiel and others, the support of education needs a new narrative. In many ways, education has become mere training — train to enter a secondary school, train to enter a university, and train to enter the workforce. Anything remote of the core training need, becomes of limited value in the “financial investment” your referred. But given the rising cost, expectations and motivations have changed.

    • Thank you, Steve! I find your end note to be very important for the core of problems facing higher education today: motivations and expectations changed. Learning also changed and economic climate is changing fast – in this sea of major shifts universities navigate ahead with oblivious arrogance and same old groups believe their own narratives of denial and self-congratulatory rhetoric. The problem is that students pay the price and social risks become too high…

  10. Stefan, followed you here from the LinkedIn Group EARLI. This was an incredibly interesting read and I think you are very right to look at what is happening in the world of universities with a critical eye. Thanks for this food for thought.

    • Charlotte, many thanks for your interest and kind words. It will be great to stay connected.
      Happy Holidays!

  11. Pedro said:

    Reblogged this on From experience to meaning… and commented:
    An extensive blogpost by Stefan Popenici about a troubled future for universities worldwide. See also my much smaller contribution to the discussion.

  12. Randy said:

    Good way of explaining, and nice paragraph to get facts regarding my presentation focus, which i am going to deliver in university.

  13. When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and
    now each time a comment is added I get several emails with the same comment.

    Is there any way you can remove people from that service?
    Cheers!

    • I am sorry you have this problem – it is not me, but WordPress… so I have no idea how I can unsubscribe you from that particular trail. I’m still exploring…

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