The new higher education environment

Funding cuts and adjustments to traditional academic practices are not unique right now to these islands, they have become a global phenomenon. In Iowa in the United States local lawmakers are planning to end paid sabbatical leave by faculty, long considered internationally as a key element of academic professional development. Sabbaticals allow faculty to catch up with developments in their area, but also to do the research that will support their teaching and scholarship.

Meanwhile the University of Queensland in Australia has announced that it will cull teaching and research programmes that it can no longer afford. This is one of the key research universities in the country, and its move demonstrates how difficult it is now becoming for higher education institutions to maintain a wide portfolio of programmes; many, even long-standing research universities, will increasingly have to limit what they offer and develop a specialist focus.

Furthermore in India employees from a number of universities have held a rally in Delhi to protest about inadequate funding.

We are witnessing a global reconfiguration of higher education, but if we are honest we don’t really know where this is going, or how quality and excellence will be managed in this new environment. The public debate on all this is just a debate about ‘cuts’, in which universities, staff and students are calling for more money. Very little discussion has taken place about a model for higher education that might preserve excellence to the greatest possible extent in the absence of levels of state funding that used to be the norm.

There is an urgent need right now to identify the kind of system of higher education that we might want or would be able to live with and that would be workable on reduced public funding. We need to plan this properly. Changing the model by stealth, on the back of public expenditure cuts, is not the way to go.

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3 Comments on “The new higher education environment”

  1. copernicus Says:

    “In Iowa in the United States local lawmakers are planning to end paid sabbatical leave by faculty..”

    * Many state univerities in USA have ended sabbaticals, Iowa is not the first. But they do not publicise this.

    “Meanwhile the University of Queensland in Australia has announced that it will cull teaching and research programmes…”

    ** It is in Australia the profound changes are taking place. Gillard’s Labour -led Government has slashed funding to universities, and universities like Melbourne more distinguished than U of Queensland with its multifaculties has cut the funding in all areas. Indeed, Gillard’s Labour-led government is thinking of removing tuition fee caps, and my information is that they are looking at Lord Browne’s model.

    “Furthermore in India employees from a number of universities have held a rally in Delhi…”

    **This is really interesting, and knowing that country well, I can say that the penny has dropped as India is moving towards private universities and self-funding by students (no loans unlike Lord Browne model), and it is interesting because India always considered public funding support to universities and generous scholarships as ways of improving the HE sector to world standard, and its best can compete with the world.

    “..There is an urgent need right now to identify the kind of system of higher education that we might want or would be able to live with and that would be workable on reduced public funding…”

    **I do not think that realisation has yet dawned on Scotland, and given the Welsh propensity to self-destruct these days, Welsh devolved government announced that it will meet the difference of fee [ ie. £6000/£9000-£3300(now)] out of university funds(that will reduce the funding to teaching and research given that there is only a fixed pot of money available) given to them by Westminster givernment. Closer examination shows that the losers are Welsh universities as more English students go there, and differentiating them just because they are English (as they have to pay the full fee of £6000/£9000) is going to backfire.
    Already my Welsh colleagues are very alarmed as the best English students stay put in England. All these point towards self-destruction by way of ideology and closing eyes to the reality. India and Australia have rightly understood the world of 2011+. Who said academics have any sense at all? They will protest for a time and the dinasaurs will disappear from the scene.

  2. copernicus Says:

    Sorry should be ” dinosaurs”.

  3. Al Says:

    Ferd
    We cant ask about Higher level education without looking at second level.
    We also need a system designed around the long term realistic economic output.
    This is also a national conversation about where we are going. But for it to happen there needs to be the freedom to question the happy/easy ending that is peddled as the knowledge economy.


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