Why universities need an entrepreneurial spirit – Agenda – The World Economic Forum

Universities are deadly conservative. We don’t want to be. We say we’re not. But we are. Our traditionalism shows through in the way we provide an undergraduate education which has remained largely unchanged over the past 50 years. We still organise most undergraduate courses so that the possessor of a good first-class degree is capable of proceeding to doctoral research in that subject without any further ado. So the most clearly identifiable outcome of our teaching is the production of individuals who can replace ourselves.

In 1965, this may have made sense; but today in my department at UCL there are 14 times more students than there were 50 years ago. Overall student numbers have grown rapidly since the 1980s, and yet the pedagogical model has barely shifted. It must. In the face of this, some could argue that universities have inadvertently become rent seekers, sitting like a medieval sovereign on the mint of modern credentials.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying we are only interested in our most academic students. Academics are aware of our duty to form the minds of all those who come to study, to help them turn themselves into useful, constructive, critical citizens. But we could be much more ambitious about how we can do that today.

Don’t hide away from the world

via Why universities need an entrepreneurial spirit – Agenda – The World Economic Forum.

The strange death of the liberal university | Michael Bailey, on openDemocracy

By Michael Bailey, Essex University.

“Published some 80 years ago, George Dangerfield’s The Strange Death of Liberal England remains a compelling and pertinent read. The nub of Dangerfield’s thesis is that, contrary to the received wisdom of the times, the war of 1914-18 was not to blame for the breakdown of Victorian liberalism; rather the decline of Liberal England was the result of radical social forces that emerged in the early twentieth century. Additionally, whereas many of his middle-class contemporaries lamented the stability of high Victorianism (a cultural hegemony that lots of Edwardians took to be unassailable), Dangerfield cheerfully mocked the conventions and modes of conduct that were associated with a Liberal parliamentary democracy, not least its civilised pretensions and political conservatism.

Nowadays, it would seem that we are witnessing the strange death of the liberal university. Various commentators have noted how British universities, though still not-for-profit charities, are being hastily fashioned after private companies and the consequent narrowing of higher education’s raison d’être. The idea of the University as a place of civic education and critical enquiry has been put to a premature death by a raft of neo-capitalist political rationalities that promote inter alia divisive competition, false economies and philistine instrumentality. Academics are bound by ever multiplying forms of spurious measurement, misleading quantification and performance management. Students, in turn, are treated more like consumers than they are citizens, increasingly defrauded with a candyfloss world of university branding and marketing gimmickry. Grant capture, consultancy, citations, impact, quality assurance, unique selling points, student surveys and league tables, have become the new deities that all shall worship.

Whilst the above developments have gathered apace since the financial crisis of 2007/2008, and austerity cuts to public spending notwithstanding, recent criticisms of higher education marketisation have noted how UK academics (among whose number I include myself) are themselves partly to blame for the passing of academia as a liberal bastion: ‘striking absence of powerful and united collective dissent’, ‘consensual silence’, ‘docile polity’, ‘almost complete capitulation’, are just some of the charges that have been leveled at university lecturers and professors. And those academics that do attempt to retain their integrity by refusing to observe the ‘Gospel of Mammonism’ risk being inculpated (as with the inquisitions of the Counter-Reformation) of error, blasphemy, heresy even – censure, denunciation and excommunication soon follow if the accused declines penance and reconciliation.

Not surprisingly, academics have long failed to defend intellectual liberty or to confront inconvenient home truths. Writing at the turn of the twentieth century, the Cambridge classicist-cum-satirist, F.M. Cornford, cautioned junior colleagues, especially the Young Man in a Hurry with a conscience, to heed the Principle of the Dangerous Precedent, which is to say:

via The strange death of the liberal university | openDemocracy.

The Massive Open Online Professor | Academic Matters

Innovative professors at many universities have been experimenting with technology to scale the lecture experience. Often their experiments started in response to increasing numbers of on-campus students. For example, Virginia Tech Professor John Boyer uses virtual office hours, pre-recorded lecture snippets, and Twitter to teach a face-to-face “World Regions” course to 3,000 students. Once a week, he fills the largest lecture hall on campus, but the rest of the course takes place online. It quickly became obvious that the model he developed with his colleague Katie Pritchard could also accommodate thousands of additional online users, who log in to view the lectures or post questions during office hours.While Boyer’s real passion remains the classroom experience, others are moving their entire courses online. The term “massive open online course”, or MOOC coined by Dave Cormier and Bryan Alexander is sometimes used to describe these types of courses, because they: take place online; are open in the sense that participation is typically free of charge and learning materials can be modified, re-used, and distributed to others; and reach massive communities of tens of thousands of learners.MOOCs are a relatively new phenomenon, but they recently captured public attention when Stanford University launched a set of free online courses. Sebastian Thrun, one of the pioneers at Stanford, created the artificial intelligence course that attracted over 160,000 users though only 25,000 finished the course. Inspired by this success he founded Udacity, a for-profit start-up that will use a similar model for online instruction, with the goal of making an entire computer science course available at no cost. Thrun’s Stanford colleagues Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng also participated in the first round of Stanford MOOCs and subsequently spun off Coursera, another for-profit start-up, which aims to provide a platform for other universities to host similar online courses.

via The Massive Open Online Professor | Academic Matters.

The neoliberal assault on academia – Opinion – Al Jazeera English

The New York Times, Slate and Al Jazeera have recently drawn attention to the adjunctification of the professoriate in the US. Only 24 per cent of the academic workforce are now tenured or tenure-track.

Much of the coverage has focused on the sub-poverty wages of adjunct faculty, their lack of job security and the growing legions of unemployed and under-employed PhDs. Elsewhere, the focus has been on web-based learning and the massive open online courses (MOOCs), with some commentators celebrating and others lamenting their arrival.

The two developments are not unrelated. Harvard recently asked its alumni to volunteer their time as “online mentors” and “discussion group managers” for an online course. Fewer professors and fewer qualified – or even paid – teaching assistants will be required in higher education’s New Order.

Lost amid the fetishisation of information technology and the pathos of the struggle over proper working conditions for adjunct faculty is the deeper crisis of the academic profession occasioned by neoliberalism. This crisis is connected to the economics of higher education but it is not primarily about that.

The neoliberal sacking of the universities runs much deeper than tuition fee hikes and budget cuts.

via The neoliberal assault on academia – Opinion – Al Jazeera English.

Huge university salaries condemned – University World News

Scottish universities employ 88 people who earn the same as the First Minister’s £140,000 (US$213,000) salary or more, reports icScotland. Just two principals across the 18 institutions earn less than the leader of the Scottish government, according to figures from the National Union of Students (NUS).

via Huge university salaries condemned – University World News.

The same may be said for North American universities, most notably the University of Alberta whose salary outranks any other because, it has been said, it is important that the president’s salary reflects the prestige and excellence of the institution.

In an age and time when we value only that for which the highest cost is extracted, outrageously high salaries may be seen as making sense of a particular kind. The question must then be asked about the kinds of values that such institutions wish to and should, uphold and the message they wish to convey about values, morals and society, most especially given their traditional function role as the social, political and moral conscience of the nation.