Seth Godin wrote a devastating post on the future of higher education. Unlike Godin, I fail to see an imminent crash of high education. But then, I failed to predict the recent financial market crash. However, as someone who spent most of his adult life on a campus, I have an idea of what students can hope to get out of higher education :
- Meet other smart people who come on campus to study or work (including professors). Emulation requires engaging relationships. Sometimes, you can get some of the same benefits by doing a job, but not always. Interestingly, online education almost entirely fails in this respect. However, you can reproduce some of this effect online, on your own.
- Degrees that are key to job-related certifications. Want to be come a (medical) doctor, a lawyer or an engineer? Universities hold the keys. Interestingly, though, all these valuable certifications are supported by legal means and non-academic organizations (such as the bar or an engineering corporation).
- University-bound financial support. Where are you going to get a (small) salary to work on proving a tough theorem, if not on a campus? Governments and donors are fond of funding universities.
Working from these benefits, how do you imagine higher education failing?
Acknowledgement: Thanks to Martin Lessard for pointing out Godin’s post to me.