European Educators Discuss Changes in Higher Ed

Some familiar themes, some new takes on them, at recent meeting of European University Association

…post-Bologna Process…new teaching tools…changes student body…alter university landscape…changes in technology and learning expectations…universities have to change…important to push student learning…learning in more individual way…digital learning moving to tablets and smartphones…MOOCs…MOOCs help bridge school-university gap by opening courses to high school students…rise in lifelong demographic mix…teaching is changing…globalization… attract international students…curriculum changes and training in cultural differences needed…prepare them for a globally functioning world.

The New York Times

Adapting for the Future at European University Conference


BRUSSELS — Senior European academics, university officers and policy makers met this month at the European University Association’s annual conference in Brussels to discuss the rapidly changing European higher education market.

European Union member states have increasingly standardized their degrees and courses under agreements known as the Bologna Process. Now, policy makers are looking to a future in which new teaching tools and changes in the student body could significantly alter the university landscape.

Experimenting with Price Cuts in Higher Education

I’ve long been an advocate of cutting tuition and getting away from the wrong-headed “luxury-price signals quality product” logic so common in lower and middle tier higher education. There are many reasons not to “just do it,” but more than a few things in favor of the idea should at least motivate serious discussion:
  • honesty in pricing might better reflect institutional values;
  • some prospective students never consider a school, knowing sticker price is out of their reach; the current system discriminates against such “humble realists”;
  • institutions should grapple with the fact that full-pay families might not be willing to participate in the institution’s redistribution scheme if they thought (knew) about it;
  • it is not clear there is any dis-interested, scientifically valid research on the implications;
  • revenue models rarely take into account the cost of administering Byzantine financial aid schemes;
  • some institutions are unfairly labeled “elitist” based on sticker price alienating people to whom their mission otherwise would appeal;
  • tuition discounting is one of many opacity practices that undermine administrators’, board members’, and faculty members’ capacity to effectively monitor the economics of their institutions.

See also

Education Resources from NYT

A list of resources from around the Web about education as selected by researchers and editors of The New York Times.



Policy Groups


Education Unions



College Admissions

College Rankings

Financial Aid and Loans

Study Abroad

Higher Education Studies


Two More Ways to Measure Educational Outcomes

So, here’s a sorta cynical question: do we have anybody working on how we can look good in these ratings?  Or at least anticipating how we will look?  Or, less cynically, can we have a conversation about the relative importance of these outcomes (and others) to us and to our students? And what do we think that the logic of outcomes, rankings, and accountability? Should we just put our faith in tradition?  Or should we tolerate bad measurements rather than wasting valuable time coming up with sound ones?

After Setbacks, Online Courses Are Rethought

The latest swing of the MOOC headline pendulum is way over on the “complete bust” end of the evaluation spectrum but they represent a very big solution in search of a problem and as such are not likely to disappear as fast as they emerged.

I stand by most of the points I made in my 2012 talk on MOOCs and small liberal arts colleges.  The main one was that we should we should avoid the urge to imitate and compete but embrace the opportunity to borrow and adapt the tools being developed in connection with MOOCs.

In today’s NYT we read about several high-profile flops in MOOC-land and evaluation research that suggests that MOOCs so far have been reaching “already educated” folks rather than those without access to higher education, undermining one of their primary public selling points. I would caution against over-embracing: as I said in the 2012 talk, the bandwagon is a hand-basket.

Other recent MOOC-related articles in the NYT…

Lists That Rank Colleges’ Value Are on the Rise

Rankings that privilege affordability and “return on investment” are becoming more common.  They tend to look very different from more conventional lists.  It becomes problematic if one falls into the false dichotomy trap: either you care about ROI or you care about “intellectual, social and civic value of education.”  One advantage of a liberal arts education is that it teaches you “both/and” as well as “either/or” thinking.  We need to recognize that paying attention to cost and career value does not mean abandoning other education fundamentals.

From The New York Times

Published: October 27, 2013

Looking out over the quadrangle before him as students dashed from one class to the next, James Muyskens was feeling proud one recent afternoon, and why not?

The college he had led for the past 11 years had just been awarded second place in a new ranking of American higher education — ahead of flagship state universities, ahead of elite liberal arts colleges, even ahead of all eight Ivy League universities.

The college is Queens College, a part of the City University of New York with an annual tuition of $5,730, and a view of the Long Island Expressway.

Catering to working-class students, more than half of whom were born in other countries, Queens does not typically find itself at the top of national rankings. Then again, this was not a typical ranking. It was a list of colleges that offer the “best bang for the buck.”

“Elation,” said Dr. Muyskens, recalling his delight when he learned of the honor. “Thrilled!”

Purists might regard such bottom-line calculations as an insult to the intellectual, social and civic value of education. But dollars-and-cents tabulations like that one (which was compiled by Washington Monthly), are the fastest-growing sector of the college rankings industry, with ever more analyses vying for the attention of high school students and their parents who are anxious about finances.

Porter on Skills Gap


Stubborn Skills Gap in America’s Work Force

One of the few things that nearly everyone in Washington agrees on is that American workers are the best. More productive than any on earth,” President Obama has said of them. They “build better products than anybody else.

Republicans, somewhat less exuberant, are nonetheless sure that American workers “can surpass the competition” on any level playing field. Even the United States Chamber of Commerce — not always a worker’s best friend — asserts that, along with the nation’s entrepreneurs and companies, America’s workers “are the best in the world.”

Friedman on MOOCs (2013)


The Professors’ Big Stage

Published: March 5, 2013

I just spent the last two days at a great conference convened by M.I.T. and Harvard on “Online Learning and the Future of Residential Education” — a k a “How can colleges charge $50,000 a year if my kid can learn it all free from massive open online courses?”

You may think this MOOCs revolution is hyped, but my driver in Boston disagrees. You see, I was picked up at Logan Airport by my old friend Michael Sandel, who teaches the famous Socratic, 1,000-student “Justice” course at Harvard, which is launching March 12 as the first humanities offering on the M.I.T.-Harvard edX online learning platform. When he met me at the airport I saw he was wearing some very colorful sneakers.

Online Classes and Degree Programs (2013)

from New York Times

Online Classes Move Closer to Degree Programs
By TAMAR LEWINPublished: September 17, 2013

Coursera and edX, the two largest providers of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, are inching closer to offering degree programs, although the courses so far carry no academic credit. Coursera is now offering courses from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, covering most of its MBA program’s first year curriculum. And Edx is starting two “sequences,” linked courses in a particular discipline. Both are from MIT: Foundations of Computer Science, a set of undergraduate courses that will begin this fall, and Supply Chain and Logistics Management, a set of graduate level courses that will begin in fall 2014.

NYT 9/13 "New Metric for Colleges: Graduates’ Salaries" ranks over 1000 institutions in terms of what their graduates earn and what kinds of jobs they get.

New Metric for Colleges: Graduates’ Salaries
Published: September 13, 2013 

U.S. News & World Report released its eagerly anticipated annual rankings of universities and colleges this week, and two of the usual suspects — Princeton University and Williams College — came out on top. Prospective students and their parents can evaluate these institutions on a variety of measures deemed important by U.S. News.

What they won’t find is any way to assess what some consider the most important issue in this still-tough economy: How much can graduates of these schools expect to earn?