Is our traditional university model outdated?
Is this a description of today’s university you would recognise? – ‘The production line factory of education, in which ever greater numbers are taught by excessively traditional methods, by people who do not think themselves to be accountable to anyone, with little interdisciplinary interaction and few opportunities for independent thinking.’ No? Well, I’m afraid we might have a problem, because this was how universities were described by a senior businessman at a recent reception I attended, to the general agreement of most of those within earshot.
Nor is this just the kind of comment made by someone hostile to higher education for whatever reason. It’s not a million miles off comments that have been made from within universities, as in this article in the New York Times by Columbia University theology professor, Mark Taylor.
As I have noted repeatedly in this blog, the academic profession has been pushed against the wall by totally inadequate funding and an avalanche of policy pronouncements that often seem to owe nothing to proper analysis. However, in this state of stress we are not adequately addressing questions of university reform. Taylor’s argument in a nutshell is that the traditional university structure can no longer deliver what society needs from universities, and that our working methods have not adapted to an environment that has changed beyond recognition.
These are topics that will be addressed in the forthcoming conference in DCU – details will be posted here shortly. And this is a debate that is now urgently needed.