How Does a University Create Value for Their Students: Does Current Practice Do This?

Recent blogging regarding university tenure processes and journal peer review processes are a reminder of how contestable knowledge production can be; especially if knowledge is not used as a tool for acting, but becomes the commodity of value itself.  It seems that the processes are corrupting the intent.  As a social scientist, I think academics in general are looking at the wrong things and seeing the world in the wrong way.

The only current educational alternative seems to be the University of Phoenix model, which seems less than desirable.  I’ve been an advocate of increased standardization for many educational tasks (As opposed to each teacher recreating the wheel for standardizable tasks.  This, according to Joshua Kim, seems to be what U of P is doing.)  But, this type of standardized learning also occupies the lowest rung on the educational value chain.

The problem is that the traditional university does is not doing much better.  I believe the biggest problem is in the infrastructure (and this includes tenure, peer review, culture and many other support structures).  Current infrastructures were created for a different world.  Our current world needs something new.

Higher education should be re-thought alone the lines of how they do , or could, create value in the lives of their students and other stakeholders.  I would love to be involved in a staged approach

  • Stage 1. Standardized processes where students acquire background concepts and skill sets.
  • Stage 2.  Internships; real jobs, created in collaborative efforts between universities and employers, structured to exist in conjunction with seminar like courses focusing on higher level cognitive, intellectual and experience development.
  • Stage 3. Ongoing lifelong alumni networks and post-graduate courses design to add value to working professionals, maintain previous skill sets, and to stay current on new developments.  The final end output is not an individual student, but a network.  An employer would not only hire an individual, but also an entire network of resources.  Now that would be of real and lasting value.   (For more on hiring a network and social capital, see Josh Letournea’s post on the Fistfull of Talent blog.)

A need for value with tenure

Yesterday I felt the need to support an instrumentalist view of education in response to Stanley Fish and Frank Donoghue.  Today I’m exploring thoughts on their primarily premise, that tenured professors are a dying breed and this fact is leaving education in lesser hands.

The cost of education is very high. Too many people need to mortgage their future to secure their future.  Beginning to address this issue will mean tenured professors and administrators must leave their walled-departmental-gardens.  From a business standpoint (and unless you are willing to work pro-bono, everyone should have some type of business perspective) administrator, professors and everyone involved need to account for how they add value to a students education, find new ways to add value, and understand how much that value costs.  Many professors are concerned with little more than delivering their course load and completing their (tenure hoop jumping) research projects; many advisor focus less on mentoring and more on choosing courses and navigating bureaucracy.  Many administrators just seem totally bureaucratized.

I believe that tenure for intellectual educational purposes is important.  A lack of tenure would be lamentable, but value propositions, not tenure proposition, are needed to be a central role in determining professor valuations.  My graduate mentor once suggested that meet every three year to justify the continuation of their course.  I agreed at the time, but even more so now.  Things change so fast these days and so many people, even tenured professors, keep on teaching the way they were taught.