Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community
Sir John Daniel and Stamenka Uvalić-Trumbić asks provocative question: "Will higher education split over the next decade or two into a public sector focussed on research and a for-profit sector doing most of the teaching?" The evidence? The communique from UNESCO predicting "massification" of higher education, Wildavsky's book on global universities, and Salmi's commentary on world class universities, Tony Bates's article on the future of higher education, and Archibald and Feldman's book on the costs of higher education. He could have added many other sources (and especially digital sources), such as this week's call for a $10,000 degree from Texas governor Rick Perry, or Paul Kiser wondering whether state-run higher education is doomed.

But if anything the analysis is too simplistic. Why would the teaching and evaluation functions continue to be combined? The drive to affordable learning suggests that they should be separated. And what would motivate governments to continue to fund research at anything like the scale it does now? The proposal amounts to converting existing universities into the equivalent of the National Research Council, but this is something the government barely tolerates as it is, and would like to reduce, not expand a hundred-fold. Research, mostly, would devolve to the private sector, maybe with direct government funding, but to industry, not researchers. What public involvement remained would be dedicated toward supporting teaching. Just the opposite, in other words, of what Daniel and Uvalić-Trumbić predict. Via Tony Bates

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada
stephen@downes.ca

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Last Updated: Dec 04, 2020 2:59 p.m.