The New York Times today ran a story by Tamar Lewin about badges and the future of credentialing. Several quotes attributed to me were featured in the article. Unfortunately for me, I did not ask “Who needs a university anymore?” as the article states I did. Reporters just can’t seem to help themselves when it comes to sensationalizing things I say.
Formal post-secondary institutions like universities currently serve about 120M people worldwide. The number of people qualified for and desiring a post-secondary experience is estimated to grow to 250M in the next 20 years. Clearly, we don’t need to be closing down universities and decreasing the capacity the system currently has – we need to be adding alternatives that scale in new and innovative ways in order to cope with the doubling of demand the system is about to experience. I went through these numbers with Ms. Lewin during our interview at some length. Where she gets the idea that I think we don’t need universities anymore is beyond me.
Now, am I very bullish on the opportunities for badges and other credentials to challenge the monopoly position held over employment opportunities by the degree? Yes. Do I think this will create competition in the education space? Yes. Do I think badges and other alternative credentials will render universities obsolete? Certainly not in my life time – though the distant future is never certain.
Just to be clear: I have always believed and continue to believe that universities are a critical part of the post-secondary education ecosystem. I wish people would quit trying to ventriloquize me as saying otherwise.