Op-ed: 5 actions to rescue universities from extinction

Professor and co-author of A Whole New Engineer: The Coming Revolution in Engineering Education, discusses controversial ideas on why universities are “so dysfunctional;” and details recommendations on how universities can adapt, survive and thrive.

extinction-change-universitiesUniversities are as outmoded as buggy whips.

The cost and value of a college education is increasingly in question or under attack, public university budgets are being slashed, and traditional colleges and universities are challenged by new forms of educational institutions and by students and parents who increasingly just say “no.”

Even the research mission of the university is being challenged by independent researchers with easy access to expert information and good ideas.

But what are causing these upheavals in higher-ed? Here are five specific problems that threaten university education with extinction:

1. Universities produce dull experts, not unleashed originals. The university was created as an assembly of experts in 1088 with the founding of the University of Bologna. This operating system worked well through the better part of nine centuries, but the quality revolution, entrepreneurial revolution, and information technology revolution create a vastly different world from the one mid-20th century.

Today we seek to educate the next Steve Jobs and other unleashed originals, those who can integrate different kinds of thinking, experience, and imagination in creative ways.

(Next page: Faculty ego, hierarchies, the “dark ages”)