In 1964, the science fiction author and Boston University academic Isaac Asimov (pictured, right) imagined the world the world 50 years ahead (2014), in an article published in the New York Times. Surprisingly, he did quite well. He forecasted the advent of Skype and Face Time. He hinted at the wireless world and flat screen televisions. But he was wide of the mark on a range of other areas – that routine jobs would all but disappear; that we would live a life of enforced leisure.
The almost universal pressure on higher education within the developed world has been on my mind recently. In particular, I’ve been thinking about the dramatic changes being faced by the UK HE sector – a situation in which, for the first time in years, our partner universities are being made to feel the pressure.
In two moves the UK Government has signalled an intent to expose the sector to the full force of consumerism and for the most part UK universities appear ill equipped to respond. The removal of the cap on recruitment of AAB students and the 8% quota reduction at universities charging more than £7,500 pa is going to make the next recruitment year is interesting to say the least.
There will be winners and losers and of course lots of change, but I’m not sure we’ll end up with a better sector. Some universities will thrive, others will have to focus on their teaching mission and realign their staff and operating models to the reality that only world-class research can be subsidised through student fees.