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Symposium 2012

Background Paper - 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 countr ...

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).

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?