Claire Field sees change coming: the question is scale


The Bayeux Tapestry, Brian Cox and the American civil war – these were just some of the unexpected topics discussed at last week’s excellent Needed Now conference

As universities grapple with increasing levels of on-line delivery, changing expectations amongst some cohorts of students, and the need to build the pedagogical skills of a predominantly casualised teaching workforce it was former vice chancellor, Glyn Davis’ comments which particularly struck a chord.

One of the questions he posed was if we would still have standalone universities when lectures are increasingly on-line and only tutorials are local? He went on to suggest there would be “players” who in future would “buy in” lectures from overseas and just deliver the tutorials themselves.

After all – “why would you produce the content yourself?”

That is in fact the decision the European Foundation of Management Development’s (EFMD) 700 business schools (across 90 countries) have taken. Last month they announced a partnership with Coursera to provide their business school students with access to Coursera’s 5,000+ courses and 1,900 Guided Projects.

Last year I was pondering the potential for this kind of change, albeit I was not yet contemplating this kind of scale.

Professor Davis went on to state that post-COVID there would be greater differentiation in the Australian university sector because of:

* technological innovation

* the government’s Job-ready Graduates package removing research funding from base funding for universities and the concurrent changes to the higher education provider category standards, and

* the growth of private providers, not necessarily private higher education providers but other private companies partnering with universities and allowing them the opportunity to “buy in” the best courses from overseas.

He thinks that competitive tensions within the system will pull apart its current level of uniformity. I agree.

Claire Field is an advisor to the tertiary education sector