Tracking a Global Academic Revolution « Ninth Level Ireland
Superb article on the past, present and future of the university in a global context, which should be essential reading for our new Minister for Education.
The Research Environment
Research universities are at the pinnacle of the academic system and are a key driver of the global knowledge network. They require major expenditures to build and are expensive to maintain. Their facilities—including laboratories, libraries, and information and technology infrastructures—must be maintained to the highest international standards. Research production in key areas, such as information technology and the life sciences, has become extremely important, not just to the prestige of individual institutions but also to national development agendas.
Financing Higher Education and the Public Good/Private Good Debate
Not just in the US but across the world, higher education is increasingly viewed as a major engine of economic development. At the same time, tax revenues are not keeping pace with the rapidly rising costs of higher education. Funding shortages due to massification have meant that higher education systems and institutions are increasingly responsible for generating larger percentages of their own revenue by strategies such as the development of university-industry linkages, research, the sale of university-related products, and other entrepreneurial activities.
But potentially the largest source of non-state revenues is tuition. So the expansion of student numbers has presented a particular problem for systems where the tradition has been to provide access to free or highly subsidized tertiary education—in the Scandinavian countries, for instance. In financial terms, this has become an unsustainable fiscal model, placing pressure on systems to fundamentally restructure the social contract between higher education and society at large.
If these two points were acted upon, our universities might actually be able to play the role that is demanded of them within society.
UPDATE: The original article is based on Altbach, Reisberg, and Rumbley’s Trends in Global Higher Education: Tracking an Academic Revolution. A Report Prepared for the UNESCO 2009 World Conference on Higher Education. Paris: UNESCO, 2009 http://www.unesco.org/tools/fileretrieve/2844977e.pdf.