Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The New University

As a PhD student, I didn't understand MBAs.  To me, business school looked like a series of cocktail parties and social events combined with a couple of good finance classes, as a reward for passing rigorous admissions criteria, throwing away two years and a lot of cash.  The efficient outcome should have been admissions teams providing signals of approval, combined with cocktail parties, networking, much higher fees and less time away from work.  Hence, we now have executive MBAs!

So, with my stellar, self-proclaimed track record, I'm making five new education predictions in honor of the new year!

  • Accredited credit aggregation.  Some established university will realize they can outsource so much of their course materials to high quality, low cost, online providers that the role of the school will become evaluating the quality of third party provided education, in effect aggregating credits earned somewhere else.
  • University as group home.  Colleges and universities have become resorts.  On campus education has lost relevance for students.  Social life still matters.  Kids still want to live in dorms, away from their parents.  And they don't want to cook.  Classrooms will have limited use.  Research facilities will be privatized and/or separated from the core of the "school".  Thw dorms, dining halls, student centers and gymnasiums will transform into year round moderately priced residences for young adults.
  • Extreme specialization.  Endowments at most universities cannot support a broad range of programs.  Even those most skeptical of online education will realize that good online courses have greater value than mediocre classroom instruction. Schools will only teach locally the subjects in which they have absolute advantage, or minimally the threshold for comparative advantage will rise dramatically...and cost will matter.
  • Merger wave.  After hurricane Katrina, I suggested Harvard should have bought Tulane.  Carnegie Mellon has 16 listed degree granting programs not in Pittsburgh.  Why should academic departments of a single university be anywhere near each other?  MIT wants humanities?  Buy William College.  
  • Privatization via globalization.  Beyond selling off the research facilities, leaving campuses as non-profit housing operations, maybe even becoming for profit residential REITs, some university will re-brand, i.e. sell itself, to a foreign university.  How can we "solve" the University of California funding crisis?  Sell off several campuses as the U.S. base of Chinese universities.
How much of this happens in 2013?  We'll see.