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What shall we do with higher education?

In addition to a delightful array of vehicles, General Motors has given us a great metaphor: a company that once ruled supreme, lost touch with the changing world around it, and, in spite of warnings over a period of three decades, still failed to align itself to the new reality. From royalty to peasantry in less than 30 years. Can higher education learn lessons from GM? Do colleges and universities share a similar fate? According to a few articles I’ve recently encountered, yes:
Transformation 101: “This is a classic unsustainable trend. Higher education prices cannot grow faster than inflation and family income forever. If colleges use productivity gains from technology to restrain prices, they’ll continue to thrive in a world that values their product more than ever. If they don’t, they’ll be hammered simultaneously by a frustrated public and new competitors eager to steal their customers.”
The Next Bubble?: “Obviously higher education will (and should) survive. But there is no reason to think that higher ed will be immune to the shakeouts and reorganizations that have affected so many other institutions in this age of globalization, which has wrought a heightened level of what economist Joseph Schumpeter called “creative destruction.”"


  1. Virginia Yonkers wrote:

    My concern is that this shake out will end up being a reversion to the industrial production model of education with standardized Instructional Design and content designed for hundreds and thousands of students, assessed using standardized pre and post tests to prove there was learning. Is this a step forward or a step back to preserve the “institution”?

    Wednesday, December 10, 2008 at 5:47 pm | Permalink
  2. Newman wrote:

    @Virginia – I think you are right. It is possible that the shakeout will produce some negative effects. The blind implementation of standardized instructional design… Or at least the narrowly focused attention on the bottom line of profit … would lead to seriously negative effects in learning and understanding.

    Optimistically, I like to think that learning and understanding are making a comeback. The affordances of the globalized world allow for incredible learning activities and experiences — pure fantasy a few decades ago.

    Is there a paradigm shift in teaching and learning happening now? (I think, yes.) Will the university be left behind? (maybe, but definitely changed) Will instructional designers pre-and post test be our undoing?(oh dear…) — – A crisis forces a decision, but will it be the right one? Will we cling to the past or leap to the future?

    Buckminster Fuller: “American education has evolved in such a way it will be the undoing of the
    society.” – from

    Thursday, December 11, 2008 at 8:25 pm | Permalink
  3. Doug Flather wrote:

    Virginia makes an important comment, but frankly as one who has worked in both traditional, state-run academia and within a for-profit distance learning graduate school environment, and who now has children as consumers of undergraduate education, I’m excited to see how post secondary education will evolve. It’s about time.
    - Doug Flather

    Friday, January 2, 2009 at 12:39 am | Permalink