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Tuesday, 12th March 2013

An Avalanche is Coming: Higher Education and the Revolution Ahead

Source: Institute for Public Policy Research (UK)

From the Foreword:

An Avalanche is Coming sets out vividly the challenges ahead for higher education, not just in the US or UK but around the world. Just as we’ve seen the forces of technology and globalisation transform sectors such as media and communications or banking and finance over the last two decades, these forces may now transform higher education. The solid classical buildings of great universities may look permanent but the storms of change now threaten them.

Of course, competition between universities around the world has been intensifying for decades, and now they fight for talent and research funding. In An Avalanche, the authors argue that a new phase of competitive intensity is emerging as the concept of the traditional university itself comes under pressure and the various functions it serves are unbundled and increasingly supplied, perhaps better, by providers that are not universities at all. Thinktanks conduct research, private providers offer degrees, Thiel Fellowships have more prestige than top university qualifications, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) can take the best instructors global. Choosing among these resources and combining them as appropriate, many of those served by traditional universities may be able to better serve their objectives.

At the same time, the changes outlined by the authors are opening up access to quality higher education to the masses in previously unforeseen ways....

The fundamental question in An Avalanche is Coming is whether a university education is a good preparation for working life and citizenship in the 21st century or, more precisely, whether it will continue to be seen as good value, given the remorseless rise in the cost of a university education over recent decades. For students, the question is immediate and challenging given the growing anxiety around the world about youth unemployment, even among college graduates. For policymakers, all kinds of new challenges are raised: how to promote meritocracy; how to regulate a sector that used to be national and is increasingly becoming global; how to ensure universities of the right sort combine with great cities to fuel innovation and economic growth; and how to break the rigid link – at least in people’s perceptions – between cost and quality.

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Having begun his career in academic libraries, Adrian Janes has subsequently worked extensively in public libraries, chiefly in enquiry work as an Information Services librarian. In this role he has had particular responsibility for information from both the UK Government and the European Union. He wrote a detailed report on sources for the latter which was published by FreePint in 2007, and has contributed articles to FreePint and ResourceShelf. He is involved in training in information literacy and the use of online reference resources.

A Contributing Editor to DocuTicker, he also write reviews for Pennyblackmusic.

Adrian can be reached at adrian.janes@freepint.com

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