Universities will be ‘irrelevant’ by 2020

RT @zephoria: Most people who seek mass attention are unaware of the costs of being famous. Few know what they’re getting into. Coping w/ fame ain’t easy.

If the Chronicle’s headline When Professors Print Their Own Diplomas, Who Needs Universities didn’t catch my colleagues’ attention, today’s front page story in the Deseret News seems to have done the trick: Universities will be ‘irrelevant’ by 2020, Y. professor says. By 8:30 am today (the day the article was published) I’d already received multiple emails and a phone call.

Now, I did actually say something like this – but it was preceded by “If universities can’t find the will to innovate and adapt to changes in the world around them (what’s happening in the economy, affordability, the impacts of technology and openness, etc.)… universities will be irrelevant by 2020.”

(It reminds me of my very first newspaper interview ever. I was an undergrad. I was singing Nanki-Poo in the Mikado at Marshall University, and the local paper came to talk to us about the production. I had just recently returned from serving an LDS mission in Japan, and had a number of things to say to the reporter about the culture, setting, etc. of the show. The quote attributed to me in the paper the next day read something like, “The Mikado really demonstrates how women don’t fit into society.” I was devastated.)

I hope this most recent article in the DesNews catalyzes some useful conversations and does more good than harm…

9 thoughts on “Universities will be ‘irrelevant’ by 2020”

  1. I asked this question on Twitter too, so feel free to respond to either, but could you publish a link to the YouTube video mentioned in the article? The newspaper had the foresight not to publish it. Thanks!

  2. That’s a pretty bold prediction. However, it’s not impossible. The economy and the issue of affordability shapes the market landscape.

  3. David,

    Two comments:

    1. Yesterday you were number 2 in popularity in the Deseret News behind “Teen soils self after deputy surprises him.” There are worse kinds of notoriety.
    2. I have actually done presentations on how to level the media playing field in an interview based on my experience as a reporter and editor. Some highlights:

    When they pull out a tape recorder, you pull one out, too. Even if they don’t, tell them you are recording this interview and do so. That should keep them on their toes.
    Require them to read back your quotes before going to press or you won’t do the interview. Then make yourself excessively available between the interview time and press time. It is SOP for highly professional news organizations to read to their interviewees the quotes as they will be printed. This is not editorial control (you don’t get to comment on the rest of the article), this is a simple matter of accuracy (say this if the resist).

  4. I don’t think that universities will become irrelevant at all. Providing instruction or knowledge is only one function of a university. Another very important function is that they provide accreditation.

    And their relevance will turn on that. This is why MIT can open all their courses to the internet and lose nothing by it. Access to all MIT’S information/knowledge still does not grant one the accreditation of being an MIT graduate.

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