Higher Education in Crisis

007Higher Education in Crisis

College and University eduction is under attack while at the same time beset by internal crises. The dramatic changes in society over the last decades have changed our class makeups. The economic changes have made colleges more expensive while state and federal aid has declined. And most bizarrely, we are engaged in a debate on whether or not liberal arts education is worthwhile.

Below are two different points of view. Please visit their web sites and read their posts in full.

James Pilant

Leadership From the Ranks


Higher education also is in the midst of a crisis. Both citizenry and a growing number of work environments require the skills to navigate an increasingly rhetorical- and statistics-based world. But the social insistence on more college has expanded the number of student bodies with different needs, as well as redirected higher education’s focus to student retention and graduation rates. On one side, faculty now struggle not merely to deliver course content for diverse learning habits, but also to ensure diverse student engagement and in-depth content assimilation for an improved likelihood of continued student success. On the other side, academic professionals struggle to identify and resolve bottlenecks in the system and reach-out to previously ignored populations who could benefit from more education.

This re-imagining of higher education coincides with an economic crisis in which people need jobs and employers want higher-quality job candidates. In the face of rising student debt, students and their parents, legislators, and potential employers now question the value of higher education. Meanwhile, our computer-infused work environment demands greater technological and critical-thinking skills for even entry-level jobs — yes, even the jobs that can’t pay back the resulting debt. This conflict has resulted in new entrants in the market who then compete with at least the public colleges and universities, which have had to raise tuition to replace diminishing state funds.

From Around the Web.

From the web site, subtext2.


Higher Education has, over the last year, been steadily and increasingly heading toward utter crisis. It is clear that this point has now been reached. Total cuts to university budgets will be over £1.5 billion. It is clear that the disaster set in motion by New Labour is being accelerated by the Conservative Coalition.

The Effects:

These are all stories reported by the BBC during the last five days:

Due to underfunding by Government, it is estimated that at least 250,000 university applicants will be refused a place for economic reasons. Spending cuts have reduced extra university places at a time when there has been a huge surge in demand. The number of applicants not getting a place will have doubled in two years.

Meanwhile, Colleges across Britain are suffering from the huge cuts to funding, from decreased student numbers (due in part to cuts), and from competition from new academies. Why the Conservative Coalition are investing in new buildings and new school colleges and not in exisiting facilities is certainly a cause for bafflement.

In response the Government has suggested (as did New Lab before them), condensing courses into two years. This from the party that, in recent memory, bemoaned “mickey mouse courses”. It seems, when the choice is between HE and big business, the Tories are happy to make fools of us all. UCU has emphatically voted against these “sweatshop” courses, but unfortunately that won’t stop a host of related trends, such as the move toward “distance learning”, “part-time” courses and other such thrift measures, which speak loudly of a lack of Government funding for Universities and of a lack of financial support for increasingly beleaguered students.*

As a result primarily of the financial meltdown, but also of other smaller factors – increased competition, for example – the Golden Promise that HE guarantees better employment has dissolved. At the same time that tuition fees have massively increased (and are set to increase more this year), students are finding that they are unable to find jobs. …


9 thoughts on “Higher Education in Crisis

  1. Thanks for posting these two articles. Although I do realize that the scope of the articles were more on teaching, public funding for science and engineering research has steadily been declining for decades, but teaching and research go hand in hand. When looking at the National Science Foundation (USA) data; however, in terms of private research money available (adjusting for the Recession), things have never been better! And, job security and good salaries are in place for tenured professors in scientific domains. I’m talking about those who are typically male, 50-65ish.

    The problem we have now is underemployment for scientists say, under 50 years old in specific domains that don’t ‘suit’ private interests, and with sparse public funding, professors at the top of the pay scale are skimming off the top, leaving less available for new tenure track positions. As such, these ‘younger’ scientists can’t find suitable employment and many are caught in a never ending postdoctoral cycle, of which older generation profs can easily take advantage now more than ever (cheap labor = more publications with better authorship opportunities for the tenured prof). Not all older generation professors have the skills necessary as it is to provide students with the technology skills needed for future employment because the amount of knowledge required and technology available in computing has really been exploding in the past 10 years or so. Yet students are paying more than ever for education.

    I wonder what will happen to quality of post secondary education when the older generation of professors retires in effect at the same time? There will be ever more students demanding a quality education in a breadth of subjects which is necessary to maintain a quality education (not just those that are of interest to the private sector) and there will be generally fewer top-notch academic folks around to fill the shoes of these professors.

    I suspect at some point the tenure and publicly funded postsecondary systems as we know them will have to be revamped, but this is going to take years.


      1. Thank you for ‘guest blogging’ my comment and for so kindly recommending your readers to follow my humble little blog. I was not expecting that, but I am much obliged!


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