Thursday, December 22, 2011

a couple of articles

Reach for the cyanide pills! From the hallow’d pages of the Times Higher comes the shock horror news that one in four new undergraduate courses attracts no students. This is portrayed as some sort of colossal waste of money; universities should have figured out in advance whether there will be a market for their new courses, before they set them up. Unsurprisingly, the study was funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). Can one imagine an attitude like that in Silicon Valley? If it had, the likes of Google or Facebook would never have seen the light of day. It is fun to imagine HEFCE as venture capitalists saying: “I’m sorry Mr Page, but the business failure rate for this kind of web site is in excess of 25%”.

From madness to sanity. I recommend Universities Under Attack by Keith Thomas, who was president of Corpus Christi College, Oxford way back when I was a student there. Read it! Read it and weep, but read it nonetheless. By way of contrast with the other article I mention, he recalls
a time when the ‘new’ universities of the 1960s were devising novel syllabuses, constructed with an eye to the intellectual excitement they generated.
Also, the article is not just hand-wringing: he proposes action that the academic community could take in response to the current malaise.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Even worse than what you write: When Google entered the market, search was already an established sector ("mature" is the word that marketers use). So one could imagine HEFCE's VC arm saying to Page and Brin:

"But we already have good search engines which work perfectly fine. And they have very established brandnames, such as Yahoo and AltaVista. How can you possibly expect to compete against such well-established companies? And you plan to advertise just using word-of-mouth and personal recommendations? You must be crazy!"