The Center for Higher Education Policy Studies (CHEPS) at University of Twente in Netherlands is holding a one-day conference titled “New perspectives in higher education and regional development” on 30th of October 2012.
The main aim is to examine the role universities play in the knowledge society and the dynamics and tensions in the environment between the local and the global agendas. The event also marks the launch of a new book on universities and regional development.
The day includes a variety of activities, amongst else keynote presentations, in addition to panel and roundable sessions. The day concludes with a lecture by Professor John Goddard, Newcastle University on the theme of “Higher Education and the Grand Challenges of Smart City Development”.
The university and the city: new perspectives on higher education and the Grand Challenges of urban development, Professor John Goddard, OBE, Newcastle University, 18.30-20.00, Van Berkhoff Zaal , 30th October 2012
It is now 25 years since Thomas Bender published The University and the City, a sweeping historical review of the intimate relationships between universities and their host towns. His thesis was that universities and cities had historically long been important to organising complex societies. Studying these institutions thus gave insights into wider processes of social development, as true in 15th century Medici Florence as 18th century Enlightenment Edinburgh and 20th Century industrial Chicago. The growth of higher education with emerging industrial democracy increasingly prized universities as spaces of autonomy in society. This could drive perceptions that universities’ social missions could be somehow detached from their locations. As urban sustainability becomes recognised as one of the most pressing Grand Challenges of the 21st century, there is an urgent need to understand how universities can contribute to the reinvention and evolution of cities and urban society.
Recently universities and cities are rediscovering each other based on a growing appreciation of shared interests, expressed in the emergence of ‘civic universities’ engaged as whole institutions with city development and linking the city to the global arena. While the drivers behind engagement between universities and cities may be global, the precise expression of this emerging relationship is certainly highly contingent on national and local circumstances. There is a huge amount of international evidence concerning the impacts of universities on their cities as places, as sites for innovation, on their wider economies and on their host societies. Universities thereby contribute to the physical, social and economic development of their respective cities. But universities are not just in places, they are also of these places, and universities’ capacities and potentials are shaped by how they interface with this local environment. How can universities in practice come to terms with their cities and work effectively with local partners to help build sustainable, healthy and creative cities?
In the CHEPS & RSA 2012 Distinguished Lecture, Professor John Goddard (Newcastle University, UK) discusses the drivers and barriers behind university engagement in city development from both city and university perspectives. It highlights the challenge of building bridges between the university and civil society broadly defined in a particular place. It draws upon ongoing OECD reviews of the role of universities in city and regional development which have identified the leadership challenge for both universities and cities if effective collaboration is to be established. These challenges are viewed in the context of debates about the role and purpose of public universities in response to major societal challenges and parallel calls for ‘smart, sustainable and inclusive’ territorial development and for place based leadership. The two debates are brought together in the concept of the ‘civic university’ for which the city is a ‘living laboratory’ and where the university plays a key role in the ‘leadership of place’. The themes are illustrated by evidence gathered from studies in selected English cities including a large survey of academics in six universities and qualitative research to scope a universities and civic leadership development programme undertaken in these cities. The European lessons are drawn out by reference to a recently prepared European Commission guide on Connecting Universities to Regional Growth.
Sure, there were always career-focused options available in the continuing education school: Perfecting Your Resume; Crisis Management; The Business of Sports. But if you desired to dive headfirst into a philosophy course on metaphysical grounding with the zeal (apathy?) of a 20-something student — without rearranging your life, that is — tough luck.
That’s no longer the case, of course. Thanks to the Internet, you need not practice your hangover scowl to sit in on a class. (Though we won’t judge you if you do.) Simply sign on and join a college course from anywhere in the world. But it will still cost you.
This fall, you’ll be able to do it for free.
The next step in online education, part of a roughly 15-year evolution, seeks to bring the star performers of American higher education to the masses — without the hefty bill. In May, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced edX, a not-for-profit, open-source educational platform and partnership that will offer free university courses online for any student with access to a computer and broadband connection. Each institution has committed $30 million to the effort.
They’re not alone. In July, Coursera, a for-profit online education company founded by two Stanford University professors, announced partnerships with 12 universities — the University of Pennsylvania, Duke University and the University of Michigan among them, as well as France’s Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne and the University of Toronto in Canada — to offer classes online, for free.
As the world’s most prominent universities move to offer their wares to a wider audience, it’s clear that online learning is entering an exciting new stage. Few will argue that increased access to high-quality education is harmful. But has the technology reached a level of maturity to effectively teach students? Will it really help broaden educational access across the globe? And will an online degree or certificate ever match the prestige and influence of a traditional, campus-centered college degree?
In its earliest form, online classes simply replicated the classroom experience as best they could. Students watched recorded videos and completed assignments posted online or sent by e-mail. As I learned while taking an online class at Harvard’s Extension School in 1999, the approach held all the excitement of late-night programming on C-SPAN.
Things have changed, to say the least. Rather than replicate the classroom, online learning has moved to a much more interactive and effective mode of teaching, practitioners say. They also say we are in the early stages of using data to inform the teaching process — the dawn of the type of personalized, “differentiated” instruction that has been the education industry’s holy grail.
EdX grew from MITx, a pilot program the university launched in the spring. MIT developed the open-source online learning platform by integrating educational research and best practices from existing platforms. Given the scale of its ambitions, the school relied on Amazon’s cloud-based computing infrastructure to ensure that it could deliver the class to thousands of students.
MIT’s first massively open online course, or MOOC for short, was called Circuits and Electronics. It attracted 155,000 students, though not all of them successfully completed the course. With Harvard now on-board, the newly formed edX expects to offer six or seven courses in the fall.
Anant Aggarwal, edX’s new chief and one of the professors who taught the Circuits class, said the platform is meant to engage students in a way that’s impossible in a traditional classroom. Upon logging in, students are presented with a series of tabs that provide access to course materials, administrative information and the class “wiki,” where students and professors can share knowledge as the course proceeds.
The heart of the experience lies with the courseware. Here, students find the entire course mapped out in a series of drop-down panels that contain each week’s lectures, tutorials and lab assignments. The lectures and tutorials, a mix of taped video and slides with voiceovers, are accompanied by a scrolling transcript. Click on any line in the transcript and the video jumps to the corresponding point in the lecture. It’s a simple but extraordinarily powerful tool to help students easily review content while listening to a lecture or during a lab session.
Laboratory sessions are interactive. Problems are often presented with an integrated toolkit: in one sequence in Circuits, students were able to test an amplifier’s output by using “sliders” to modify things like frequencies and voltage.
Among the most important aspects of the platform, Aggarwal said, is its ability to give students instant feedback. When they completed answer sets, the system evaluated it immediately. And the technology goes well beyond simple multiple choice; it’s also capable of handling equations and symbolic expressions.
Instant feedback systems are of particular importance with a class numbering in the hundreds of thousands, where grading papers by hand is out of the question. And while no technology will ever overcome the impact of a bad teacher, it can help any teacher reach a broad audience while still maintaining a sense of educational intimacy.
“There’s a big difference between self-study and instructor-led,” said Cathy Sandeen, dean of UCLA’s online education program, which served 50,000 students last year. Online courses need not mean self-study, and it can be easier to engage students than traditional lectures. “Here I am at a large public research university,” she said. “Sometimes, there are 300 students in a classroom. There’s not going to be a lot of interaction.”
Sandeen added: “The great thing emerging now [online] is the interactive platform, which use things like Web cams to connect students and faculty and discussion boards where students are required to participate and check in regularly.”
Discussion boards don’t necessarily bring to mind the cutting edge, but many educators cited them as the most effective way to build community among online students, whether they live five or 5,000 miles from the institution.
The edX platform encourages active participation on discussion boards and provides a mechanism to identify students who are particularly adept at helping others. Responses to posted questions can be “upvoted” by others on the site, giving the student who offered the response a “karma point.” It’s a rough measure of influence and expertise: with enough karma points, the student gains some privileges that an instructor enjoys, such as ending a discussion. The board proved so popular that MIT kept it alive, at the students’ request, after the course ended.
Along with providing a professor with a means to monitor and mandate class participation, online discussion forums enhance the discourse thanks to their relative anonymity, several educators said. “In psychology, at one point we talk about sexuality and sexual orientation,” said Frank Loschiavo, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Ohio-Zanesville. “In class, I’ve never had a kid say, ‘I’m gay and I think this.’ Online, it happens every quarter.”
Several educators said that much of the student interaction flows organically from the boards to other sites and, in some cases, the real world. Students in the Circuits class started Facebook groups to continue discussion and work on problems. Ray Schroeder, who heads the online learning program at The University of Illinois-Springfield, said that students in Christ Church, New Zealand, who took one of the university’s online courses met in a McDonald’s to do their work over the restaurant’s free Wi-Fi.
The Holy Grail
Like any industry that transitions from analog to digital, the greatest enthusiasm for online education centers on the opportunities presented by the vast amounts of data generated by courses.
Whether for a college-level course or kindergarten, teaching that is customized to an individual’s learning style and level of proficiency has long been a theoretical ideal. Aggarwal and others said they hope they can refine the online platforms to quantify and meet that need, something that has proven difficult to achieve in the traditional classroom, where teachers use qualitative cues to moderate progress.
A robust online system could evaluate a student’s performance as he or she goes through problem sets and diagnose potential problems and remedies. It could be as simple as presenting slightly easier questions and building back up to the hard ones; a more robust approach would temporarily take the student out of the problem set to review material in a way that matches their learning style — say, a visual review for those students who retain information better through graphics and not text.
In its first incarnation, MITx simply gave students multiple attempts to answer questions.
“For homework we had an infinite number of ‘tries’; on midterms, just three,” Aggarwal said. “In a regular classroom … they get one shot. They make a stupid mistake, and if the instructor is kind, they will give them partial credit.”
The data also can give an instructor the ability to evaluate their own performance and to experiment with different types of instructional methods.
“If my assignment is due on Sunday, I can do a quick correlation of who accessed the reading on Monday and whether they did better or worse than others or if those who visited a specific link did better,” Schroeder said. “Or those who went to the discussion board. It’s [about] being able to pinpoint what is working.”
The experts suggest that the lessons of online learning will leak back into the classroom, something that Aggarwal said doesn’t happen often, even at MIT. They envision a world of “blended” learning or “flipped classrooms” – where, for instance, lectures would be viewed online and in-person classroom time is dedicated to problem solving and further discussion. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently granted edX $1 million to create an online computer science course and to partner with a post-secondary institution to offer a flipped classroom experience to low-income students.
Back to the future
The technology may be ready, but is the world? One factor that vexes proponents of online education is its relative lack of prestige compared to on-campus education. When it comes to a job, does a digital course pass muster?
“To this day, degrees are still the hoop you have to jump through to qualify for certain education jobs,” said Sandeen, the UCLA dean. “Then they look at the brand. If it’s an online degree from Harvard, that still may trump a traditional degree from a ‘lesser’ school.”
In the case of edX, certificates will be in the name of edX, not Harvard or MIT. Sandeen said the bias against online education will change over time as the quality of the institutions offering online courses and credentials improves and the number of people looking for flexible, lower-cost training grows.
“There are 76 million baby boomers,” she said. “The lucky ones are retiring. The others have an economic necessity to change careers. Yet we still have big issues with social justice and access to education.”
Higher education is rapidly changing--you don’t have to even be paying much attention to see that. Universities have started streaming lectures en masse, schools like Harvard and MIT are teaming up to create content tailored for the web, startups like UniversityNow are creating reasonably priced online universities, and startups like Udacity offer online-only classes from renowned professors. None of this existed 10 years ago, and the field isn’t done changing yet. A new report from Pew Internet looks at what higher education will look like in 2020, based on survey responses from over 1,000 "Internet experts, researchers, observers and users."
Below, highlights from the survey, including notable responses from those who were polled.
* Just 39% of respondents believe there will be modest changes by 2020, represented by the following scenario outlined by Pew: "In 2020, higher education will not be much different from the way it is today. While people will be accessing more resources in classrooms through the use of large screens, teleconferencing, and personal wireless smart devices, most universities will mostly require in-person, on-campus attendance of students most of the time at courses featuring a lot of traditional lectures. Most universities’ assessment of learning and their requirements for graduation will be about the same as they are now."
* Far more respondents--60%--believe there will be more substantial change. Pew outlines this scenario: "By 2020, higher education will be quite different from the way it is today. There will be mass adoption of teleconferencing and distance learning to leverage expert resources. Significant numbers of learning activities will move to individualized, just-in-time learning approaches. There will be a transition to "hybrid" classes that combine online learning components with less-frequent on-campus, in-person class meetings. Most universities’ assessment of learning will take into account more individually-oriented outcomes and capacities that are relevant to subject mastery. Requirements for graduation will be significantly shifted to customized outcomes."
* Many of the people polled think that opportunity, efficiency, and student and parent demands will lead to new teaching methods. Mike Liebhold, senior researcher and distinguished fellow at The Institute for the Future theorized: “Under current and foreseeable economic conditions, traditional classroom instruction will become decreasingly viable financially. As high-speed networks become more widely accessible tele-education and hybrid instruction will become more widely employed.”
* At the same time, respondents believe that the increasingly inaccessible economic situation in higher education will bring on changes. Tapio Varis, professor emeritus at the University of Tampere, explained his thoughts: "Traditional face-to-face higher education will become a privilege of a few, and there will be demand for global standardization of some fields of education which also will lower the level in many cases."
* Some respondents don’t take distance learning seriously, but others recognize that tools to make online education more accessible are rapidly emerging. One anonymous respondent believes that location-based higher education is a bubble that’s about to pop: "I believe we will see somewhat of a return to a Socratic model of single sage to self-selecting student group, but instead of the Acropolis, the site will be the Internet, and the students will be from everywhere.”
* While higher education is already changing, don’t expect it to look too different than the way it is today, say many respondents. Steve Jones, professor of communication at the University of Illinois-Chicago and a leader of the Association of Internet Researchers, had this to say: "Simply put, few universities can afford to change from the way they are today. While a riposte is that they cannot afford not to change, inertia is powerful, and taking the long view is hard. By 2020 not much will have changed.”
Of course, it’s just traditional universities that can’t afford to change. Newly emerging online universities and certification programs already are circumventing barriers like cost and location. It’s still hard to get a well-paying job without a college degree, and that probably won’t change by 2020. But there may be many more paths to that degree than there are today.
Tim Birkhead has been studying a single guillemot population for 40 years. Here he explains how such commitment provides insights that the three-year studies favoured by the research councils cannot hope to match.
I'm dangling somewhat inelegantly from the end of a rope, 200ft above the sea on Skomer Island off Wales' Pembrokeshire coast. Bracing my feet against the cliff face, I gingerly direct the tip of a long fibreglass fishing rod towards a bunch of guillemots. The colony smells something like a fishy pig farm and the noise is deafening. Beneath me the sea is pounding the rocky shoreline; behind me is my climbing buddy and research assistant; and in front of me a hundred adult guillemots are belching out deep guttural roars of parental agitation, and their fluffy offspring are squealing like demented songbirds.
By Jeffrey R. Young. Bill Gates never finished college, but he is one of the single most powerful figures shaping higher education today. That influence comes through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, perhaps the world's richest philanthropy, which he co-chairs and which has made education one of its key missions. Bill Gates never finished college, but he is one of the single most powerful figures shaping higher education today. That influence comes through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, perhaps the world's richest philanthropy, which he co-chairs and which has made education one of its key missions.
The Chronicle sat down with Mr. Gates in an exclusive interview Monday to talk about his vision for how colleges can be transformed through technology. His approach is not simply to drop in tablet computers or other gadgets and hope change happens—a model he said has a "really horrible track record." Instead, the foundation awards grants to reformers working to fix "inefficiencies" in the current model of higher education that keep many students from graduating on time, or at all. And he argues for radical reform of college teaching, advocating a move toward a "flipped" classroom, where students watch videos from superstar professors as homework and use class time for group projects and other interactive activities. As he put it, "having a lot of kids sit in the lecture class will be viewed at some point as an antiquated thing."
The Microsoft founder doesn't claim to have all the answers. In fact, he describes the foundation's process as one of continual refinement: "to learn, make mistakes, try new things out, find new partners to do things."
The interview comes on the eve of Mr. Gates's keynote speech at an event Tuesday to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act, which created the nationwide system of land-grant colleges. The "convocation" will be held in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Association of Public Land-Grant Universities.
Below: A complete transcript of the conversation. First: Three video excerpts from the chat. (More video excerpts are available here: Gates on Technology and Philanthropy | Gates on Lectures and New Universities).
Q. You have been interested in education for quite a while. I was looking back at your 1995 book, The Road Ahead, and you laid out a vision of education and how it could be transformed with technology. It seems like some of that vision is still only just emerging, so many years later. Did it take longer than you thought it would?
A. Oh sure. Education has not been changed. That is, institutional education, whether it's K-12 or higher education, has not been substantially changed by the Internet. And we've seen that with other waves of technology. Where we had broadcast TV people thought would change things. We had early time-sharing computing—so-called CAI, computer-assisted instruction—where people could do these drills, and people thought that would change things. So it's easy to say that people have been overoptimistic in the past. But I think this wave is quite different. I think it's more fundamental. And we can say that individual education has changed. That is, for the highly-motivated student, the ability to go online and find lectures of various length—to see class materials—there's a lot of people who are learning far better because of those materials. But it's much harder to then take it for the broad set of students in the institutional framework and decide, OK, where is technology the best and where is the face-to-face the best. And they don't have very good metrics of what is their value-added. If you try and compare two universities, you'll find out a lot more about the inputs—this university has high SAT scores compared to this one. And it's sort of the opposite of what you'd think. You'd think people would say, "We take people with low SATs and make them really good lawyers." Instead they say, "We take people with very high SATs and we don't really know what we create, but at least they're smart when they show up here so maybe they still are when we're done with them." So it's a field without a kind of clear metric that then you can experiment and see if you're still continuing to achieve it.
Q. So who's to blame? Are there things like the U.S. News rankings or other pressures that give colleges the wrong incentives?
A. Well there certainly is a perverse set of incentives to a lot of universities to compete for the best students. And whether that comes out in terms of being more selective or investing in sort of the living experience, it's probably not where you'd like the innovation and energy to go. You'd like it to go into the completion rates, the quality of the employees that get generated by the learning experience. The various rankings have focused on the input side of the equation, not the output.
Télécharger le document "Pour une vision prospective de la formation en entreprise".
Point de vue d’acteurs de la formation continue en entreprise
Notre propos est de donner le point de vue d’acteurs de la formation à travers le regard du GARF. L’association représente une part majeure de ceux qui ont la responsabilité de la formation dans les entreprises en France, notre mission étant le développement des compétences au service des entreprises et des salariés, dans une perspective de responsabilité sociétale. Nous ne traitons pas de l’ensemble du système formation ; nos observations portent sur la fonction formation et le rôle des acteurs vus par l’entreprise:
- par un diagnostic sur la situation actuelle, à partir des travaux du GARF,
- et des éléments d’une vision prospective de la formation, de leurs impacts en évoquant des scénarios de rupture par rapport à ce que l’on observe aujourd’hui.
1. Contribution à un diagnostic – les acteurs aux prises avec l’actualité
A partir d’éléments formant une « photographie » des acteurs et leur « métier », telle que nous pouvons l’observer du GARF, nous mettons en évidence ce qui caractérise leur rôle aujourd’hui, en se focalisant sur certains thèmes de leur action. A partir d’un enquête récente réalisée au sein de l’association, et en se référant à des observations plus anciennes, il est possible de mettre en perspective des traits caractéristiques et des évolutions sur une vingtaine d’années. Notons que les PME sont plus nombreuses que les grands groupes dans notre échantillonnage (40%, contre 26%) Si l’on regarde le profil du responsable de formation, il est aujourd’hui majoritairement féminin (69%) et plutôt ancien dans la fonction (de 8 à 10 ans). Il s’agit d’une personne expérimentée venant d’une autre fonction, et le plus souvent diplômée (au moins bac +3). Si, pour la plupart (à 60%), leur fonction est consacrée principalement à la formation, elle implique de plus en plus des activités connexes: GPEC, développement RH, relations écoles et stages, alternance, etc.
Télécharger le document "Pour une vision prospective de la formation en entreprise".
Download the document "For a prospective view of corporate training" .
Perspective of the actors in-company training
The association represents a major proportion of those who are responsible for training in companies in France, our mission is the development of skills to help companies and employees, from the perspective of social responsibility. We are not dealing with the whole system training, our observations relate to the training function and role of actors seen by the company. More...
In anticipating the future, Higher education in 2030 will take a double perspective: regional and thematic. In regional terms, we are addressing the future global ‘pecking order’ and, in particular, the issue of global higher education leadership. Will the US still lead, or is it going to be overtaken by up-and-coming Asian countries? Will Africa have finally developed its higher education systems, and no longer be in need of development aid? What will be the role of Europe in the geo-politics of higher education and how will we view the Bologna reforms in 18 years from now?
In a thematic respect, we will look into the role of internationalisation in 2030. Will it – finally – have become a salient feature of higher education? What sort of models of governance, leadership and management will there be? Will we have, as the OECD predicts, almost universal participation in higher education in 2030? And will the ‘brick-and-mortar university’ still prevail, or will most teaching be done in the ‘virtual’ mode?
For the look into the crystal ball, ACA has succeeded in enlisting some of the world’s top ‘clairvoyants’ as speakers. The future is one of the hardest things to predict, as Groucho Marx and Woody Allen found out. But our speakers will rise to the challenge.
34th in the series “European Policy Seminars” of the Academic Cooperation Association
The 18th Annual Conference of the European Association of Research Managers and Administrators will take place from the 8th -11th July 2012 in Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland during the celebration of ‘Dublin, City of Science 2012′ and just prior to the 2012 European Science Open Forum. The EARMA conference will focus on the upcoming HORIZON 2020 programme, ongoing research management and professional development.
Patrick Cunningham: Growing the Knowledge Economy: The Irish Perspective
Sean McCarthy: Getting Ready for Horizon 2020
Kathleen Larmett and Denise Walden: Developing Leaders for Research Management: Globalization in the 21st Century
Judith Schallnau: Experiences and Best Practices on Dispute Resolution
Louise Byrne: Guide to MC Financial Issues
Susi Poli Professional Development WG session
Alicia Blaya: IPR for non-FP7 Projects
Maria Grazia Bonanomi: Planning Research Activities
David O'Shea: Guide to Financial Issues in FP7
Simon Kerridge and Keith Jeffery: RMAS: Research Management and Administration System
Caroline Ang and Lorna Colquhoun: Breaking Down Silos: The Role of Research Offices in Stimulating Collaboration
Alex Waehry: Organising Research Support Offices, LERU Examples
Olaf Svenningsen: Organising Research Support Offices, Mapping Processes and Tasks
Agatha Kellner and Annika Glauner: How will you re-structure your Support Office for Horizon 2020
Philip Purnell: Sponsored Session, Thompson Reuters
Valerie Thiel and Peter Darroch: Sponsored Session, Elsevier
Roumen Borissov: FET Funding Scheme
Kristel Toom: New Comer's Meeting
Marie Geoghegan-Quinn: Keynote, Horizon 2020 and the New Beginning for the European Research and Innovation System not available yet
Enora Pruvot: Sustainability of European Universities: Impact of Horizon 2020
Sean McCarthy: Giving Impact to your Impact; Impact Writing and Measuring in Fp7 and H2020
Andrea Degen and Dan Nordquist: Social Media: Another Hype or useful Tools to Improve Communication and Exploitation of Results
Yan Zhang and Feng Zhou: Chinese Views on H2020
Peter Hartwich: Workshop: The Participant's Portal
Julia Lane: Measuring Success, STAR METRICS
Alan Mathewson and Cian O'Murchu: Towards an Open and Sustainable - ICT Research Infrastructure Strategy
Paul Coughlan and Ruth Kearney: The Innovation Academy at Trinity College Dublin -Facilitating University-Industry Collaboration
Anne Katrin Werenskiold: ERA Working Group: Academic-Industrial Collaboration in H2020
Rafat Mrowka: ERA Working Group: From theory to practice – making money from research
Ciaran Dearle: Smart Specialisation: Stairways to Excellence and the Role of the Future Cohesion Policy
Kathrin Werner and Annika Thies: H2020: The Legal Framework
Jorg Langwaldt: Professional Development of EU Advisers and Administrators in a Network of Four Finnish Universities
Dan Nordquist and Kathleen Larmett: EARMA/ NCURA Fellowship Programme
Brendan Hawdon: H2020: Next Steps
Emmanuel Babatunde: Enhancing Collaboration between Administrators, Advisers and Researchers
Jan Andersen: Global Collaboration and Professional Development
Katrin Reschwamm: Communication Tools for EU Projects - from Chat to Collaborative Work Spaces
Olaf Svenningsen: Workshop - Registering for NSF/NIH/Grants.gov
The Center for Higher Education Policy Studies (CHEPS) at University of Twente in Netherlands is holding a one-day conference titled “New perspectives in higher education and regional development” on 30th of October 2012.
By Warren Bebbington. UNTER den Linden is old Berlin's most picturesque boulevard. It is a street redolent with history: Napoleon's troops paraded through the Gate in 1806 after defeating Prussia; Hitler led a torchlight parade there when he became Chancellor. The Berlin Wall still divided the city in the early 1980s when I came to study in the State Library, and armed border guards watched from gun turrets at the Gate to see no-one approached too closely.
All that has changed now. Yet one instutution that has survived two centuries is in the rebuilt palace next to the Library: Berlin University, opened in 1810 and now renamed after its founder, whose statue graces the entrance - Wilhelm von Humboldt.
Philosopher, diplomat and admirer of the Enlightenment, Humboldt had travelled to Paris in 1789 during the storming of the Bastille. He was amongst the circle of reformers who, in the wake Napoleon’s occupation of Berlin, were charged with rebuilding Prussia as a modern state. In 1809 he was appointed head of culture and education at the Prussian Ministry of the Interior, and he immediately proposed a reform of the entire Prussian education system, arranging it into three tiers.
He resigned after just 16 months, too soon to see the lower tiers come to reality: the 30,000 free primary schools that spread across Germany, and the rigorous secondary schools (Gymnasien) that still exist today. But he had already implemented his plan for a new kind of university.
Humboldt did not want his university to offer a rigid curriculum like the vocational Stuttgart Hochschule where his friend the poet Schiller had passed a miserable time. Nor did he want the traditional university pattern, where the focus was on the study of often ancient books, transmitted by the professor in lectures for students to copy, summarize and memorize, for he was sceptical of granting books unquestioned authority.
He believed the discovery of knowledge was an unending scientific process, and doubted it could be codified in books. Scientific discovery was pursued at meetings of the Royal Society in London and the Prussian Academy Sciences in oral demonstrations, but those he felt lacked the stimulation dealing with students would bring. His aim was to bring objective scientific discovery and subjective student learning together as one. In his 1810 paper “On the Internal and External Organisation of the Higher Scientific Institutions in Berlin,” Humboldt explained his vision of “work on knowledge [Wissenschaft] in the deepest and broadest sense of the word.” Around a seminar table, students would orally report on projects they had chosen to work at under their own guidance. The successful work of one would thus inspire the others: it would be “a collaboration that is uninterrupted, constantly self-renewing, but unforced and without specific purpose.
There would be no curriculum, no exams, and no grades; the learning would be student-centred, with professors present not to lecture but to guide these “inherently undetermined and in a sense accidental activities.” The credential would be a new degree, the PhD, awarded for a dissertation demonstrating original research, orally defended in a seminar. Students would graduate as rational, critical and independent thinkers, ready to follow careers in law, medicine, education or the church.
The professors, appointed and salaried by the State, would be required to give public lectures, but otherwise had “solitariness and freedom” to pursue topics as their curiosity dictated. The State was to refrain from prescribing them particular technical problems: it was to have “the inner conviction that when they achieve their final purpose, they will also fulfil its purposes, namely from a much more elevated perspective.” Basic research would take time, and the university’s autonomy was important.
Needless to say, the student who could at once embark on independent research under his own guidance would require rigorous high school preparation to “bear within himself a yearning to lift himself to science.” And thus a problem was entrenched: while Humboldt had sought to end aristocratic privilege, the Gymnasien remained all-male, elite institutions throughout the 19th century, and thus admission to the university was socially restricted.
Still, Humboldt’s university attracted brilliant professors and students from across Germany, from Schopenhauer and Hegel to Karl Marx and Albert Einstein. It inspired the German research university which, by the Great War in 1914, was admired throughout the world.
To be sure, it was not the only locus for research at the time: Louis Pasteur in France had shown that important and useful science could thrive in free-standing research institutes too. But many British and American scholars were attracted to study in Germany in the 19th century, and the German research university model eventually came to reshape their own universities, from Harvard in the USA to Oxford in the UK.
In Australia, the German research university model was more slowly assimilated, the PhD at last adopted in the late 1940s and 50s. The early 1960s were halcyon days: student: staff ratios were a luxurious 8:1 and many classes were small, offering close encounter with a lecturer.
The students arrived at university generally well prepared by school matriculation classes, and being supported by their families or on scholarships most had no need to work. The attraction of science was especially great; flushed from wartime achievements in the hour of national need, and confident of ongoing government funding for the Space Race and other ambitions, science seemed to offer limitless horizons.
Staff were free to work at applied research or choose to follow their curiosities into long-term basic research, some of which was funded in the R&D departments of commercial companies as well. And not all needed to pursue research: it was accepted that some would be immersed in teaching instead.
Universities catered for the traditional professions, while training for the growing number of skilled occupations and for teachers - where employment opportunities and demand were now strongest - were handled by technical institutes and teachers’ colleges. It was a steadily expanding binary system of higher education, a divide legislated by the Menzies government in 1958, as it later was in the UK in 1963.
No one much complained that just 4 per cent of school leavers attended a university: concerns over social restriction in university participation were yet to become a major issue.
Contrast this with the present situation. Numbers in Australian universities now are huge - more than 1 million students are enrolled. The student: staff ratio averages 20:1, and classes of 1,000 or even 1,500 students are not unknown in first-year subjects.
Few campuses have grown in proportion to accommodate such numbers, and not surprisingly, students are unhappy with their experience, expressing in the national Course Experience Questionnaires and other surveys often modest levels of overall satisfaction. They sit in classes often overtired from outside work, distracted by texting friends on ever-present laptops or smartphones, or even gaming which, as one recent study shows, some believe is a legitimate activity in lectures.
The digital world impacts students in other ways too. For a decade now fewer have bought prescribed textbooks, believing that if the lecturer’s online materials fail to serve, then they can always make do with searching the internet.
They are thus ill equipped to read or understand the research literature in their field, and when an enterprising lecturer refers them to a research article, those that read it come away often mystified and irritated at its obscurity, and seldom energised by the idea of the search for new knowledge. The chance that independent research would play a significant role in such undergraduate teaching seems remote.
Moreover, the promises of e-learning have not yet captured their attention in ways we might have hoped. They love downloadable lectures, for they like being able to review and revise through that format, being free to skip, highlight, or replay passages as they wish - just as their forebears did with a textbook - or even play at double speed, to make the droning of a particularly ponderous lecturer more interesting.
They also like online drills and quizzes where there is instant response. But they complain that other kinds of online learning resources are often poorly executed, boring, or only vaguely related to the subject. Their lecturers are too often not skilled in the full potential of digital resources, using them simply to reinforce or substitute for face-to-face lectures.
For their lecturers, the pressures of research have come to dominate teaching. In an environment where available grant funding is far from adequate, competition is fierce, and calls for measures of “impact” alarm those committed to long-term basic research where no impact may be detectable for many years. Pressure to climb the university ranking tables adds to the focus on research, for most such tables rank research rather than teaching, which they cannot seem to measure directly.
Meanwhile, the cost of researching some of the most important problems has exploded beyond the capacity of any single university to afford. What Australian university could purchase a $200 million Synchotron, or run a Very Large Array at $15 million a year?
In one of the welcome developments of the past decade, this has led to significant partnerships, where universities, research institutes, governments and corporations have formed consortia to jointly purchase and operate research facilities none could afford alone. Some such partnerships have brought institutions together around the world, constructing global research capacity of impressive size.
But “Big Science” demands large numbers of staff too: a particle collider may need a hundred research-only staff to run it, and this stresses further the tension between research and teaching. Such facilities often offer too few properly-funded opportunities for students.
Research-only staff numbers have grown strongly, while nationally research higher degree student numbers have now started to decline, as they find more attractive rewards and more stimulating work outside universities.
Yet despite their massive size, universities cater for a participation rate of no more than 32 per cent in Australia, so some social inequity remains. To achieve the goal of 40 per cent set by government since the Bradley report, let alone the 50 per cent aspiration in the UK, requires yet further expansion. Subjects with 2,000 students perhaps? Anything Humboldt would have recognised will then be very hard to find.
How did our universities come to this? The turning points were in the 1970s. The Oil Shock and the western economic crisis that followed brought the first significant constraints in government block grants to universities in Australia, and with those came the development of more rigorous selectivity measures and quality assurance control in national research grants.
It was the worst possible moment for universities to expand, but a tidal wave of baby boomers reaching school leaving age had already struck: the capacity to accommodate more students was at an end. Entrance quotas were introduced, based on school scores, and for the first time high school matriculation no longer meant a place in university. Tension rose over social inequity in universities, and it was clear the binary systems would not last much longer. The end approached in 1988 (and in the UK around the same time) when under John Dawkins a “Unified National System” came into law. Funding would now significantly increase, but the colleges and technical institutes would all combine or be merged with existing universities; henceforth all higher education institutions would be called universities, and thus all would be required to adopt a research-intensive mission. In Australia and the UK, all higher education institutions were now shaped by a single mould.
Some countries had more nuanced ways of managing the enrolment explosion of those years. By far the most impressive was in the USA, where in California, the State’s university, teachers colleges and junior colleges had been coordinated under a Master Plan for Higher Education in 1960. The Plan mandated a tripartite system under a California Postsecondary Education Commission, in which the University of California would take the top eighth of school leavers, the state teachers colleges (now renamed California State University and focussed on applied research) the top third and the vocational junior (now community) colleges would be open to all who had finished high school and are 18. All three tiers would be tuition-free, and each would have its separate governance. Though now suffering financial crisis, it was a bold, quintessentially democratic solution, which allowed significant and ongoing expansion of higher education, but based on academic merit rather than social class.
What would Humboldt have made of Australia’s universities today? No doubt he would have marvelled at the complex questions and imaginative methods of our research, while likely censuring government for attempts to influence research autonomy. In large research centres he would have thought the lack of a teaching program the same shortcoming he saw in the science academies of his own day.
Likely he would have thought the set curricula and limited scope in many courses a step back to the vocational institutions he disliked. He would have seen the current uses of online resources as little more than continuation of the text transmission model he sought to supersede, and in Wikipedia a compilation of information no closer to spreading true knowledge than the encyclopaedias of the 18th century.
Everywhere he would have seen an urgent need to reconfigure teaching for small group seminars, to liberate curricula and timetables for flexible learning, and to reinvent anew the close interaction of teacher and students in an uninterrupted, self-renewing collaboration of discovery.
So what can be done? Fundamentally, we need to affirm the vital importance of small-group learning and close encounter with a teacher in high-quality university learning. By this I mean finding a place in our courses for the self-renewing, open-ended collaboration Humboldt described - the oral seminar or interactive group encounter where students take part in content design, peer assessment, and quality evaluation and where the teacher is a guide and partner rather than a lecturer.
We need to recapture the excitement of discovery in undergraduate programs. There should be some chance even for the first year undergraduate to experience learning through independent inquiry and sharing their findings in a small group. Graduate research training also needs to be made more attractive, finding ways to improve its rewards and widening opportunities for RHD students to work alongside staff in our most exciting research frontiers, including even the most complex of our “Big Science” projects. We need to embed cultivation of the character we wish for in our graduates. Most universities have statements of graduate attributes, some only thinly connected with the actual learning. Every course needs to contribute in some way to producing independent, critical, tolerant and open-minded thinking; to learning the skills of acquiring knowledge by navigating, analysing, and discerning credibility in information sources; and to developing interpersonal and communication skills, motivation, and the personal attitudes and work ethic essential to successful collaboration, discovery and - as it happens - to graduate employment.
We will also need to develop e-learning resources that better support discovery and collaboration. Beyond presentation software like PowerPoint we need easily-usable design tools and software that enable interactive discussion environments, runnable simulations, guided analysis tools, process change exercises for example.
These will enrich face-to-face teaching, and enhance flexible learning, improving a university’s ability to cut loose from set class timetables to serve the growing number of students whose work commitments or geographical location prevent them from attendance.
Inevitably we will also need to intensify academic staff development in teaching, to equip staff with small group, collaborative teaching strategies and new IT skills. Academics typically spend most of their time teaching yet are least trained for it, and often least rewarded for it too. Universities need to professionalise teaching and its rewards, so staff who choose to pursue teaching excellence may enjoy the same status as those who pursue research excellence.
Finally, we need to share the excitement of discovery with the public, by more often placing our leading academics on the public lecture podium or in the media to speak of their work.
Of course, no single model is right for all students: in a truly inclusive university we are unlikely to have Humboldt’s restriction to rigorously-prepared students ready to work independently. As they move towards 40 per cent participation rates, Australian universities will increasingly need to adapt to students of varying aptitudes, achievements and interests. And in any case, ratios of 8:1 are unlikely to be seen again. How then do we simulate the small cohort experience where it is appropriate in the midst of a diverse, mass enrolment?
Some are trying to address this. At UC-Santa Barbara, a university ranked No. 32 in the world (ARWU) with five Nobel Prize winners on its current staff, there are dual paths through undergraduate degree. Most students choose from amongst majors taught in the customary classes; a smaller group, having met additional entry requirements, take independent work from the outset, working closely with full professors.
Santa Barbara calls it “graduate school for undergraduates”; it does not let all have a taste of small cohorts, however. Elswehere content from massive open online courses (MOOCs) is freeing staff time for closer contact with students.
Ultimately, governments need to sanction a broader variety of missions from universities, instead of the single, research-intensive mould.
Universities elsewhere choose their characteristics based on their location and their environment: in the USA over half the 4400 degree-granting institutions focus entirely on teaching.
Australian universities need to be able to choose where they wish to place themselves on the continuum between teaching and research, between transmitting known knowledge and discovering the unknown, between short-term applied and long-term basic research, between cultivating students’ character and deepening their specific expertise, as well as between building international scholarly reputation and building national identity, between serving the professions as they exist and changing their social shape, between partnering with the community and standing apart as its independent critic.
In Australia, we have not suffered from the model described by Harry Lewis in Excellence Without a Soul, where in some elite US universities the leading professors are seen only in graduate seminars, while green doctoral students handle the bulk of undergraduate teaching.
Yet at present Australia staff are not much motivated about teaching. In a survey of academics in 18 countries, US academics had the highest preference for teaching, while Australian had the fourth lowest. Australian students report much less frequent communication with staff than American students, they are less likely to receive prompt feedback, and thus are not motivated to work as hard to meet their teacher’s expectations. All in all, American universities offer students closer interaction with a lecturer. The single mould of government funding which has concentrated Australian focus on research means staff struggle to see teaching as a satisfying alternative.
Like much else on Unter den Linden, Humboldt University suffered from the years of Nazism. Einstein and other distinguished professors fled and its academic standing plunged, to be rebuilt only slowly during the years of Communism that followed; today it does not feature among the Top 100 of the ranking tables.
And across the world the university model it inspired has all but drowned in the flood of massed enrolments and the weight of research demands. Sensibly, the way forward is going back to Humboldt’s ideal.
Warren Bebbington, inaugural address as vice-chancellor, University of Adelaide.