Road Ahead for America’s Colleges and Universities

Two economists from William & Mary offer their insights into the challenges and opportunities ahead for higher education in the United States. A question and answer session from Inside Higher Education with Robert B. Archibald and David H. Feldman, authors of, The Road Ahead for America’s Colleges and Universities.

Archibald and Feldman’s predictions aren’t as sweeping or attention grabbing as Harvard professor Clayton Christensen’s theory of disruptive innovation. In fact, they’re happy to distance themselves from the world’s most aggressive prognosticators, arguing futurists are people who are happy if you don’t read their books in 20 years. They point out that the future is not preordained and can instead be changed by policy choices, economic decisions and other unforeseen events.

Nonetheless, they acknowledge that forces — notably income inequality — are making it increasingly hard for many students to pay for college. Institutions serving underprivileged students are facing some of the greatest threats, they argue. As such, the higher education system’s ability to drive economic opportunity is uncertain going forward.

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China Rising as Higher Education Power

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, Keith Burnett, writes in the Times Higher Education that China will take a dominant position in higher education. He appears to be making this statement based on pure size, scale, holding now place for academic practices and campus norms in national systems of higher education. He makes valid points in some cases (china is now the 4th most popular destination for overseas students!).

From Burnett in the Times Higher Education,

If you think of higher education as a global luxury good (as I have heard it described), then you can easily grasp why Chinese families buy a big chunk of the very finest higher education “product”: degrees from UK institutions. And let’s be honest, that demand has been the salvation of many UK universities’ financial bottom lines.

But when you look at the better and fancier options now coming out of China – in everything from next-generation transport to technology – you will see that there are fewer and fewer things they cannot make. This should make us all tremble.

It tells us that our higher education brands will have more and more competition in the years ahead, as China itself sets targets to become a destination for students from across the Belt and Road and beyond.

The UK might have Harry Potter, Downton Abbey and Sherlock on our side, but as public investment in research and teaching falls while China’s rises, our edge can’t last for ever. China, for the record, is now the fourth most popular destination for students studying overseas.

Should US higher education leaders be worried? — they, too, have relied on Chinese students — from PhDs to undergrads (a more recent trend!)… Lets not forget, one of the reasons entrepreneurs have succeeded on campus is because higher education itself is a massive marketplace (from food and fun to books, housing and media products!).

Korean University at Consumer Electronics Show

While perusing through the Consumer Electronics Show website I noticed a University Innovations section for exhibitors, from there I found a list of featured innovators — assuming that means they paid extra for marketing dollars. A few of the featured include, Case Western University (with a heavy presence), the University of Nevada Las Vegas (the Shark and Guy Fieri?), and Hanyang University, based in Seoul.  Their listing states they are focused on 5 product categories (Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality, Gaming, Safety and Security Products, Sensors, and Wearables)..

Some more about Hanyang University from Wikipedia. It appears that its an ‘older’ South Korean private university that focuses on engineering and practical education — ranked 30 in Asia on the QS rankings.

Is attending CES a good idea for a major research university? Clearly the South Korean Government sees university spinouts as good policy and has for nearly 10 years. Will have to watch for Hanyang and other Korean universities to see if this government led policy has worked for society, students and the achievement of university missions.

For my research and understanding of campus innovation ecosystems check out this recent paper on SSRN: The Campus as Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: The University of Chicago.

Shark Kevin O’Leary Visits Harvard Business School

Kevin O’Leary of Shark Tank visits Harvard Business School and offers a few nuggets of truth. Kevin also listens to pitches from some of the student founders. While Kevin recognizes the advantages of launching at Harvard University, he does not realize how much schools like George Mason University, University of Chicago and others are doing to provide real opportunities to experience entrepreneurship and innovation on campus — now.

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Mark Zuckerberg’s 2018 Challenge; Save Facebook

For those who have been watching Facebook and its founder Mark Zuckerberg for years (as I have); each year Zuck creates a personal challenge for growth. Mark Zuckerberg’s 2018 challenge is specifically focused on his company — very different from recent challenges – visit all 50 states, learn Mandarin, read lots of books. From Zuckerberg’s post:

For example, one of the most interesting questions in technology right now is about centralization vs decentralization. A lot of us got into technology because we believe it can be a decentralizing force that puts more power in people’s hands. (The first four words of Facebook’s mission have always been “give people the power”.) Back in the 1990s and 2000s, most people believed technology would be a decentralizing force.

But today, many people have lost faith in that promise. With the rise of a small number of big tech companies — and governments using technology to watch their citizens — many people now believe technology only centralizes power rather than decentralizes it.

There are important counter-trends to this –like encryption and cryptocurrency — that take power from centralized systems and put it back into people’s hands. But they come with the risk of being harder to control. I’m interested to go deeper and study the positive and negative aspects of these technologies, and how best to use them in our services.

Here is coverage of Zuckerberg’s challenge and its attempt to avoid government interference — from TechCrunch (Romain Dillet) and CNBC (Michelle Castillo). 

Here is an article from Fast Company on some of Zuckerberg’s personal self improvement goals from the past.

FT Rankings – Sneak Peak at Entrepreneurship

The Financial Times will release its 2018 MBA programme rankings at the end of January; they’ve provided a tease on entrepreneurship education (which Stanford University has dominated since this sub ranking began in 2015). From the FT.

Stanford Graduate School of Business has topped the table since 2015. Latest data show that slightly more than a third (36 per cent) of its alumni started a company during orPlease use the sharing tools found via the email icon at the top of articles.

Alumni from Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College (ranked third for entrepreneurship) had the highest proportion — with 52 per cent of its graduates setting up a company.

But overall, appetite for start-up creation seems to have peaked in 2015 when it reached 21 per cent. This was up from 18 per cent in 2013 and 2014. It fell back to 19 per cent in 2016 and 2017. Are start-ups on a downward trend or will they bounce back in 2018?after graduation.

7 Trends for Higher Education in 2018

Lisa M. Rudgers and Julie A. Peterson offer their list of 7 trends that will impact higher education in 2017. Some of the usual suspects in here; from the generic (eroding support for higher education) and expected (reckoning with racist pasts) to the retro (Presidents as intellectual leaders – even a shout out for my President – Angel Cabrera of George Mason)…

From Rudgers and Peterson at Inside Higher Education

Many of us look back fondly on the days of towering public intellectuals like Robert Maynard Hutchins, Father Theodore Hesburgh, Vartan Gregorian, Derek Bok, Chuck Vest and others. In the last decade or more, higher education leaders have appeared reluctant to speak out on issues, perhaps out of concern for angering important stakeholders. But here’s one upside of the turbulence in the past 18 months: the environment has unleashed a new set of highly visible college leaders who know how to use the bully pulpit, and their voices, to advance their principles and institutions.

Some who came from the political arena, such as Janet NapolitanoMitch Daniels and Margaret Spellings, are savvy about the power of a well-placed op-ed. Others — including Ángel CabreraRonald J. DanielsL. Rafael Reif and Robert Zimmer — have tackled an important issue, sometimes enriched by their personal stories. And a growing number of college leaders know how to leverage the power of social media.

What’s ahead: The number of topics important to higher education and worthy of thoughtful commentary will only grow. Fortunately, an explosion of digital media channels will provide leaders with many good avenues to express their ideas. Social media further extends the reach of worthy and interesting commentary.

What to do: Identify topics that are compelling and advance the priorities and mission of the institution. Assemble key ideas, data and examples — and when a moment of news makes the topic relevant, act quickly to provide relevant commentary. Colleges and universities have an obligation — and an opportunity — to foster informed debate and model what civil discourse looks like in 2018. Presidents can avoid political land mines if they stay closely connected to mission, avoid partisan rhetoric and pretest draft language with key alumni, board members and other trusted advisers.