‘Fixing’ higher education

The president of an American liberal arts college, Doug Bennett of Earlham College, has suggested four steps to ‘fix higher education’, published in the Washington Post. These are the four:

1. Fix the Broken Financing of Higher Education.
2. Strengthen the Focus on Assessment of Learning Outcomes.
3. End Intercollegiate Athletics As We Know It.
4. Build a National Open Access Digital Library System.

Three points made by the writer struck me particularly. First, treat higher education as an investment, not as an act of consumption. Secondly, assess funding in terms of how it supports access to higher education. Finally, in looking at learning outcomes, Dr Bennett makes what I regard as a very interesting comment, that higher education ‘is much too dominated by considerations of prestige and much too little dominated by considerations of real value or effectiveness.’

Leaving aside the athletics, which is less of a problem over here – and indeed, sports are making a positive contribution to university life in these islands – it can be seen that our priorities for tackling the crisis in higher education may not be too far off those that would apply in the United States.

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