College Education helps students to broaden their intellectual horizons and develop skills related to a particular trade and knowledge stream to make him employable. The rise of universities is linked to industrial revolution in generating and disseminating knowledge and skills. The factories required engineers, accountants, managers and the increasing urbanization required doctors, architects, administrators and many more such streams of activities emerged. The research in universities helped companies and countries to make better products and to better defense equipment to fight better. Trade and commerce grew exponentially and that required trained professionals. Universities catered to all these requirements. The libraries and laboratories were essential components of that work. Books were produced and some of the oldest universities like Oxford, Harvard and Cambridge had publishing company which publishes reports and books.
Things have started changing with computers, internet and smartphones which are upending the established model of generating and disseminating knowledge and skills. The cost of running a world-class university has increased many times. At the same time, the value addition to normal students is not very higher compared to the cost. After solid school education, a student can self-teach, for example, coding and become a programmer. His value addition will come from short term courses and online courses at a much cheaper cost. That student can supplement his knowledge and skills by doing internship in a good company. The return on investment on student’s time and money will be much higher than pursuing a full time four years software engineering course from a great university. If this is the case for most of the streams, the university system is up for massive disruption. The future of average universities, who may not be able to generate high returns for their students, is grim.
“The rise of online platforms and learning academy is challenging the existing model of dissemination of learning and skills”
One has to look at the rise of new institutions in education. The rise of Coursera, Edx, IBM University, Linkedin Learning, Khan Academy, quality videos of lectures of great academicians and thinkers help students to learn and go deeper in particular subjects. The rise of Byju's app, companies like Upgrad and learning academy is challenging the existing model of dissemination of learning and skills.
The rise of AI and Machine Learning will help companies to design customized learning for each individual which is not possible in the existing scheme of things. The Google Assistant, Alexa and Siri can also act as a teacher for students. The Podcasts will help students learn. There are reports that companies like Google and Amazon have started hiring individuals based on their skill sets not necessarily the degree from higher educational institutions. These are initial trends that will get crystallized in coming years. But one thing is certain that the existing model of colleges and universities are up disruption.
Universities have taken notes of the changes and have jumped on Edx and courser platform. Harvard, MITs of the world have done that. Some universities have completely dismantled their MBA program and have made it online. One year MBA with six months of teaching and six months of on job learning will reshape the MBA degree. Research grants from the companies and the government are the most sought after.
Face to face education has relevance which will stay but reimagining cost-effective classroom teaching with practical experience may shape the future university. The new cohorts will also be seeking engagement. As people live longer, people above 50s and 60s will seek admission to get new skills or knowledge. The future of university needs to be reinvented and reimagined with the emerging needs of society and the world.