A Future with Only Ten Universities

“In 50 years, he says, there will be only 10 institutions in the world delivering higher education and Udacity has a shot at being one of them.”

Sebastian Thrun

Audrey Watters, who blogs at Hack Education gave a talk titled “A Future With Only 10 Universities” on 14 October at a pre-conference called “Minding the Future”* held at Mary Washington University.  Her spiel is to pose a dystopian future in which there are only 10 universities in the world, to speculate as to what they are, and then to suggest what the path to this future might look like.

I describe an alternative dystopian future in post on Majoring in the 21st Century, arguing that a likely future is one where small colleges become franchises of education conglomerates that are the descendants of companies like Pearson, Kaplan, McGraw-Hill, etc.

To give you a sense of her angle, here is her list:

  1. Oxford
  2. Cambridge
  3. Harvard
  4. MIT
  5. Stanford
  6. Princeton
  7. The University of Pearson (acquires Coursera, 2016)
  8. The University of Google (acquires Udacity, 2014)
  9. The University of Walmart (acquires University of Phoenix, 2017)
  10. BYU
Spoiler alert: she doesn’t actually think this is an inevitable outcome.  There’s a video of the talk on You-Tube (at 1:33:00).

* The conference description from YouTube post of the streamed video: “Across the nation, higher education has seen a recent flood of initiatives that seek to leverage the advantages of the “virtual” domain to improve affordability, degree completion rates, and educational outcomes. Many of these initiatives are being driven by calls to fundamentally change the landscape of higher education as we know it — but is this supported by thorough conversation or vision about what the new landscape should look like?

“To examine this question, the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV), a wide range of Virginia’s public higher education institutions, and the Shuttleworth Foundation are sponsoring a two day event that will investigate these calls for disruptive change, and chart a path for Virginia public institutions to navigate the possibilities and challenges in the future.

“On Monday, October 14th, five thought leaders from multiple disciplines and professional domains will examine the issues, in light of the national landscape of higher education. A series of focused talks throughout the afternoon will be capped by a panel discussion dealing specifically with whether or not public institutions have their head in the sand when it comes to topics such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), distance learning, and the ‘electronic delivery revolution.'”

Author: Dan Ryan

I'm currently an Academic Program Director at MinervaProject.com. I've been a professor at University of Toronto, University of Southern California, and Mills College teaching things like human centered design, computational thinking, modeling for policy sciences, and social theory. I'm driven by the desire to figure out how to teach twice as many twice as well twice as easily.

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