Nigel Thrift on the future of Big Ed(ucation)

In the Chronicle of Higher Education. Here’s a couple of key paragraphs:

It is possible to see a new political economy of higher education coming into existence born out of the huge increase in students around the world, as well as boosts to university research funds and the prevalence of information technology that allows lower transaction costs and more syndication. Whether we like it or not, higher education will almost certainly follow something much closer to a mass-production model as it scales up even further. The only question to be answered is, what kind of industrial model? […]

Like many, I don’t find this vision of the future to be a particularly inviting or attractive one—to put it but mildly. But for those who live outside the laagers and compounds of the few elite universities, it may well be their lot in years to come. If we don’t like it, then we need to propose real alternatives, not just protect what to many from outside higher education looks like a status quo that is already frayed around the edges. See, for example, the case of the setting up of the new Council for the Defence of British Universities and this vitriolic response. The challenge is not to just complain but to propose something better. That challenge is urgent.

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