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Redefining Universities

The Challenge

There are two big trends in higher education: "individualization" and "massification." The former is important mainly in developed countries whereas the latter takes places mainly in developing countries. Yet distinctions between the systems of developed and developing countries cannot be sharply drawn: on the one hand, outstanding students from developing countries want individualized education; and on the other hand, aspiring students from developed countries want good value for money (which means massification).

Three important factors influence and interact with these two trends. The first is changing technology, which may be able to foster both individualization and massification, for example, via e-learning. The second is the changing needs of societies, economies and labor markets, to which universities have to adapt their strategies. And the third is widening participation.

The one-dimensional aim of being a globally outstanding research university reveals thought patterns based on traditional academic formats. Most people acknowledge that there are a few "real Ivy League universities," some "partial Ivy League universities" and many "wannabe Ivy League universities." Yet most universities around the world still strive for the same goal: to be a globally well-known research institution, creating an inviting atmosphere on campus and thus attracting the best students and researchers—in sum, to be like an Ivy League university.

Universities are usually differentiated vertically, for example, through a static league table measuring the total quality of all universities. But differentiation should also be made horizontally through multidimensional league tables based on different criteria—for example, putting a new orientation into practice or cultivating a specific profile through focusing on certain disciplines, teaching modes or specific target groups. Yet the media still take a one-dimensional approach to defining excellence in higher education.

Widening participation is changing not only the profiles and organization of universities but also the whole idea of higher education. It may be time to redefine what constitutes a university. For example, in Germany, universities not run by the state have to verify that they are capable of providing teaching and research that meet certain established standards. Yet counting square meters of lecture rooms and specifying libraries' inventories are inadequate for assessing a higher education institution that might be organized through social networks.

If regulation assumes that the lower limits of higher education can be defined, where is the line beyond which an institution cannot be attributed to the higher education sector? Will innovative new institutions respond to demand more adequately than established universities or will existing universities reinvent themselves successfully?

In the absence of government regulation, a great variety of university profiles is emerging, notably in the United States. Is it the government’s responsibility to ensure that there is a well-balanced landscape of universities—one that both provides academic excellence and meets society’s demands of the sector—or can this be done more effectively by “free” markets? Can diversity be imposed by government? And if free markets are the solution and different kinds of excellence have to gain acceptance in the academic environment, the labor market and wider society, how can multidimensional transparency be achieved?

    Solutions

    Solution

    Governments and other funding agencies...

     
    Governments and other funding agencies need to build an evidence base on how online or blended learning and modularization affects learning, progression and drop-out rates.

    Governments and other funding agencies need to build an evidence base on how online or blended learning and modularization affects learning, progression and drop-out rates.

    Polity, Academia, Business, Civil Society
    Solution

    Governments, higher-education institutions and scholarship...

     
    Governments, higher-education institutions and scholarship providers need to experiment with new funding models for higher education to give access to quality education to students who can pay little ...

    Governments, higher-education institutions and scholarship providers need to experiment with new funding models for higher education to give access to quality education to students who can pay little or nothing—for example, by charging for certification, examination processing, learning support or online internships, rather than for content and its delivery.

    Polity, Academia, Business, Civil Society
    Solution

    Governments should develop standardized certification...

     
    Governments should develop standardized certification of student learning outcomes at the individual course level, thus ensuring transferability and transparency of courses and modules on a global scale.

    Governments should develop standardized certification of student learning outcomes at the individual course level, thus ensuring transferability and transparency of courses and modules on a global scale.

    Polity, Academia
    Solution

    Refocus institutional accreditation on criteria...

     
    Refocus institutional accreditation on criteria that really matter: efficient quality control and appropriate learning outcomes.

    Refocus institutional accreditation on criteria that really matter: efficient quality control and appropriate learning outcomes.

    Polity, Academia
    Solution

    Governments should stimulate institutional diversity...

     
    Governments should stimulate institutional diversity and make excellence beyond research visible, for example, through multidimensional rankings.

    Governments should stimulate institutional diversity and make excellence beyond research visible, for example, through multidimensional rankings.

    Polity, Academia

    Proposals

    Proposal

    Redefining Universities

     
    Up until a short while ago, a typical definition of a university would have been characterized by at least the following elements: having an appropriate building with lecture halls, positioning itself ...

    Up until a short while ago, a typical definition of a university would have been characterized by at least the following elements: having an appropriate building with lecture halls, positioning itself distinctively between secondary education and the labor market, employing lecturers with at least a PhD and encouraging students to do research work independently. Outstanding research universities have been the reference point for centuries – and all other higher education institutions had to try to live up to that standard. These traditions are now called into question all over the world, especially by private and forprofit institutions with profiles that

    Polity, Academia
    Proposal

    Redefining Universities For Global On Line Education: Government Role In Quality And Student Attainment

     
    Idea: Create government entities that enable students to obtain degrees/certificates by aggregating online course from anywhere in the world. Background and RationaleMany students lack access to high ...

    Idea: Create government entities that enable students to obtain degrees/certificates by aggregating online course from anywhere in the world. Background and RationaleMany students lack access to high quality postsecondary education. Delivery costs for traditional brick and mortar postsecondary programs are high and rising rapidly. In the United States, where breadth of access has a particularly strong tradition, 85 percent of students are “nontraditional” working adults, or ethnic minorities. Eighty percent of them attend institutions that are non-selective. Many countries are cutting support for public postsecondary education. While the capacity of public institutions stagnates, for-profit colleges are the only sector expanding

    Polity, Academia, Business, Civil Society
    Proposal

    From Employability to Job Creation; From Single Campus to Several Including Virtual

     
    Summary: Invest in and build global, multi-location, offline and online universities that build job-creation ability and not just process-driven employability skills. Solution: As several developed co ...

    Summary: Invest in and build global, multi-location, offline and online universities that build job-creation ability and not just process-driven employability skills. Solution: As several developed countries take leadership roles in concept and idea-driven economies, much of the developing world is struggling with preparing individuals to be highly effective, process-driven employees.  The higher education systems in developing economies are torn between providing basic skills and imparting sufficient depth to have room for creativity development. This is in a resource-constrained environment, which cannot build brick and mortar universities fast enough to keep pace with the growing population. However, in the same environment,

    Polity, Academia, Business, Civil Society
    Proposal

    Quality Degree-Granting University, Tuition-Free, Modeling the Present and Future of Educational Reform

     
    The timing couldn’t be better for the massification of higher education to happen. Massification is happening with educational resources freely available online, yet what if we can combine the conce ...

    The timing couldn’t be better for the massification of higher education to happen. Massification is happening with educational resources freely available online, yet what if we can combine the concept of this with formal structure, small classroom sizes, academic oversight and proctoring to culminate in the attainment of accreditation – and do it all tuition-free? We are heading into a time of great demand, with powerful technological tools to wield to create lasting reform in education. With the concept of combining Open Educational Resources, open source technology, peer to peer learning, and the assistance of volunteers - a model utilized

    Academia, Civil Society

    Background Paper

    Background Paper

    Redefining Universities

     
    Individualization and massification are two important mega-trends in today’s Higher Education: At first sight individualization is immanent mainly in developed countries where individuals look for t ...

    Individualization and massification are two important mega-trends in today’s Higher Education: At first sight individualization is immanent mainly in developed countries where individuals look for tailor-made educational products whereas massification takes places mainly in developing countries. Yet a clear distinction between the higher education systems of developed countries and developing countries cannot be drawn easily: On the one hand, outstanding students from developing countries strive for individual education and on the other hand social climbers from developed countries need good value for money and look for mass products in education.
    Individualization and massification are not only changing the strategies, profiles, actions and organizational structures of universities but also the whole idea of higher education itself. What is the goal of higher education in relation to just education or even training? Where is the line beyond which an institution cannot be attributed to "higher education" anymore? Will new institutions that develop innovative profiles respond to existing needs more adequately than established universities (Ben 2012)? Or will existing universities adjust themselves successfully instead?

    Polity, Academia, Business, Civil Society

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