Director of Center for 21st Century Universities and Professor of Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Richard Demillo has an intriguingly controversial argument about higher education: it isn't working. With rising costs of tuition and textbooks, higher education has outpriced too many. Demillo sees some worrisome trends for the future. While the elite Ivy League and prestigious schools such as Harvard and Yale's are likely to survive any environment, the majority of public institutions of learning are walking towards the path of self-destruction. With enrolments decreasing each year, institutions are still turning away potential students. In Abelard to Apple, DeMillo traces the history of the university system to its origins in European monasteries, and sees that the centuries-old model of higher education inherited by American institutions are out of tune with the the social, historical, and economic forces at work in today's world.
Online Universities - If University of Phoenix, Open University, and Athabasca University is showing us, distance education is enormously successful, and is giving campuses of higher education a run for its money. Students find great value for their tuition fees and the business model is efficient and profitable. Demillo sees online universities in fact returning to the origins of European universities -as learning institutions that is not restricted by class or economy.
Industry Drives Education - Regardless of the philosophy of higher education, students enrol at higher education with an intent for employment. Universities in India and China are at the cutting edge of creating new areas of research that synchronizes with the needs of industry. Demillo points out institutions such as Zhejiang University's newly opened Department of Ocean Sciences in 2009 which puts theory into practice by fusing engineering with coastal trade being innovative in fusing the practical needs of trade in that area with the latest research in the interdisciplinary sciences. It's a conundrum: does a liberal arts education actually foster or prevent critical thinking? Demillo seems to believe that universities and colleges theorize to the point that it does its graduates disservice by training them to think as their professors.
A New Way To Be Accredited - Accreditation hampers education more than anything. If anything, Apple's iTunes U and MIT's OpenCourseWare has also shown that with the web, learning has not only become accessible, but free. Massive open online course (MOOC) courses where the participants are distributed and course materials also are dispersed across the web. Breaking apart the fabric of the current system, Demillo argues that accreditation of a degree should not be at the whim of universities. Could we imagine a future where students can pick and choose their own degrees? Could they tailor their studies to what they truly want to learn? Could this be achieved in an open system where universities champion the ecology of courses rather than the rigidity of structure? Will the future of higher learning be based on this educational long tail work?