This is my contribution to the plenary debate at the OEB Conference "in Berlin" next week: https://oeb.global/programme/debate - This is usually a great conference, certainly my favourite. As it is a combination of formal education and the training industry it is much more pragmatic and comprehensive. I'm honoured to be a participant in the plenary debate.
"This House Believes Universities, in Their Current Form, Are Unsustainable as Mass-participant Institutions"
Graceful Degradation: Who would have thought that engineers would have come up with such a lovely phrase. It refers to lowering the quality of a digital service when transmission conditions are poor. I would like to suggest that Universities should now gracefully, over a period of time, reduce their activity and restrict themselves purely to knowledge creation and the dissemination of this new knowledge. It should be restricted to an elite – the brilliant and the curious – and the rest of us should be satisfied with vocational education.
Now to illustrate some of the points I want to make I’ll tell you a bit about myself rather than quote research to you. Apart from being sceptical about the quality of much of the research being done on higher education, there is very little being done to explore the value of higher education to society. Let’s not talk about how the oft-quoted earning potential of degree holders confuses correlation with causation.
So it looks like I may be one of the few uneducated people here – all my degrees are in engineering. I had to read Ulysses and David Hume on my own. Finnegan’s Wake and Critical Theory were too difficult for me but I’m not really sure a university course would have helped much.
Here’s a photo from my college days in engineering in Heidelberg in 1900 (there was only one girl in the class). A lie, I’m afraid - This is from the musical “the Student Prince”. I did Engineering in Dublin between 74 and 78 – not nearly as much fun. I had no money and there were no girls in our class. So between lack of money and 9-5 classes, I didn’t get to spend much time with my classmates developing a deep understanding of “life, the universe and everything”. (Although I did listen to the “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy faintly on the BBC on our crystal radio set)
And yet I turned out to be a relatively productive member of society and a well balanced adult (that’s what I’m telling you anyway)
So there were a few conclusions I came to based on my experiences.
1. There are better ways to learn than attending university. I realised that when you are learning something in order to achieve a task you learn much more efficiently - as I was doing in my work.