Posts

Showing posts from May, 2011

63/100: The State of My Work

My work role is undergoing a subtle shift. In the first six months in my job in the college, I was mainly involved in strategic developments, which meant I dipped my toe into almost everything, from planning new customer service initiatives to talking to strategic partners overseas. However, since January, after the college recruited a new Managing Director, whose role includes everything business related, my role has changed into one overseeing the learning and teaching in the business courses of the college. Which I indeed love, it is in line with what I am studying at the UCL and something that I wanted to do: In a way, I am dead serious when I say I have retired from business.

My own assessment of the job is that there is a lot to be done. We do a much better job than most other private colleges around, but there is a lot to be covered still. Private College industry in Britain is sort of a cottage industry, without much professional practices in recruitment, design of courses, eva…

62/100: Beyond Employability

I was at the launch of a new book - Blue Skies: New Thinking About The Future of Higher Education - on Monday the 23rd. This was about, as Rod Bristow, President of Pearson UK and the host of the event said, starting a debate on the role and future of higher education in Britain. If so, it was timely: In many ways, this is a time for existential crisis for higher education. In attendance were who's who in Higher Education, including the British Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, and Wendy Piatt, the Director General of Russell Group. There was some debate on the funding models and more discussion on where the Higher Ed is going in Britain. However, one thing everyone agreed on - education is for employability.

It is not so much of an issue if employability is one of education's goals, but it starts becoming problematic when this is perceived as the sole objective and everyone seems to agree on it. Particularly in the context of higher education, where a crit…

62/100: Obama wows the British Parliament

Image

61/100: Gotta Share! The Anthem for Social Sharing

Image

60/100: Reigning In The For-Profit Education: A Discussion

Image

59/100: How can 'Education as Enterprise' Turn A Profit?

I am looking for a name of my industry. I am in this industry which is called 'Private Sector Education' in Britain, and 'For Profit Education' in America: I like neither of these terms. For a start, 'Private Sector' is a term espoused with Britain's ubiquitous Public Sector in mind, but that distinction may soon go. More and more education businesses will now vie for public funds given out in terms of subsidized student loans, and more publicly funded universities and colleges would want fee paying students just like the Private sector. In fact, the Universities minister David Willetts just alluded to that possibility, only to be severely rebuked by Vice-Chancellors and the media; but, as with other things this Government is doing, this is exactly what is around the corner.

As Public/Private distinctions get blurred in Britain, Education For Profit is having its own existential crisis in America. Steve Eisman, the 'Big Short' guy, has already caused…

58/100: How To Turn Around A Not-for-Profit?

Image

57/100: Goals Vs Serendipity

I never understood something about the self-help literature: It always assumes that you know where you are going. But, mostly, we don't: Or at least, I don't. I keep setting goals, indeed, because I am told they are a good thing. But I most often abandon them rather than reaching them. I shall argue that does not turn me into a failure, necessarily. It makes me feel like Christopher Columbus, who wanted to go to India using a different route: He took a risk, made a mistake, and what a rewarding mistake that turned out to be.

I have always been told goal setting is a good thing. From the school days, when my teachers at school would ask me what I wanted to be and not knowing the answer was a bad thing. So, you then make up the goals, even when they were wholly unsuitable. These goals tend to become more about people around you than about you. May be there are those perfect people who can start with the end in mind, but they are as unreal as Stepford Wives to me. Most of my life …

56/100: The Mobile Dimension

I spent yesterday in the Adobe 'Experience Matters' seminar in London - a showcase of Adobe's enterprise tools and multi-platform capability - which was every bit worthwhile as I learned so many new things. It was indeed good to spend some time learning about new technologies: The new ideas, as ever, were refreshing, and there were some really good presenters there.

The presentations were primarily focused on what Adobe tools can do for a large corporation, but I took away a different message. That the world is mobile, and any service that does not acknowledge this, is surely not going to impress. I have since been looking at this more closely and what I found has only reaffirmed my initial impression. I have learned that more than 40% of users blame the brand, not their mobile, or network provider, when their mobile browsing experience is not satisfactory. There are, of course, massive amount of research on Mobile Internet usage (you can access one here) and all point to o…

55/100: Teaching in Higher Ed

I am amazed how little discussion there is about teaching in higher education. I am currently exploring what is available, and indeed coming across people like Stephen Brookfield and Stephen Rowland, but this is quite inadequate given the huge expansion of university education and teacher numbers. Derek Bok, the former President of Harvard University, wrote that universities often don't want to discuss or improve teaching: Research yes, teaching no. There seems to be an idea that teaching needs to be steady state, whatever we need to know about teaching is already known and if you let someone with enough knowledge and experience inside the class, nothing else will be required.

I have also read Phillip Altbach edited The Fall of the Guru, where he and his associates explore the teaching profession in the context of Asian Higher Ed. What comes out is that while the provisions for Higher Ed have generally expanded, there is a de-professionalization of teaching. Admittedly, teaching wa…

54/100: Google Museum of Museums

Amit Sood talks about Google's Online Museum, and I am indeed excited to see the service. For me, this is about art being given back to people, as well as a neat way to prepare for Museum visits. Indeed, I love the museums, the experience of being in the presence of great creative works, and I am sure this will help me prepare for my visits better and make the visits more enjoyable.

53/100: Gary Hamel on Technologies of Human Accomplishment

Gary Hamel is seen delivering a lecture at University of Phoenix, the American 'Virtual' University owned by the Apollo Group. His central message is clear - management has fallen in a state of disrepair and needs urgent innovation. The question, however, is whether management itself will survive another century or it would dissolve into something else. That idea is less wild than it seems: Leadership has replaced management as the favoured term for the business gurus (with notable exception of Gary Hamel and his colleague at London Business School, Julian Birkenshaw, and Henry Mintzberg). But, here, Hamel's plea to bring back the humanity to business, make employees central to the agenda of the corporation, is linked with his faith in management. Despite the HR gimmicks that passed on as management innovation for last half century, businesses have lost its identity as a social organization and have come to be seen as a money-making machine, often like a Las Vegas style Ga…

52/100: Is Higher Ed Bubble About to Burst?

The Economist makes the point that Higher Education may be the latest bubble and may be it is about to burst.

The argument rests on three things.

The first, as observed by Peter Thiel, the legendary Paypal investor, is that the tuition fees are too high, debt burdens are too onerous, and rewards are too uncertain for people to keep investing in education. In his view, higher education is like housing, seen as an insurance against the uncertain future: Once the promise of the future disappears, the students may not be interested to pay the high fees that the top schools now demand.

The second is an economic argument made by, among others, Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman. Krugman observes that contrary to the popular belief that technology is making only low skill jobs redundant, it is also replacing the skilled jobs. This essentially means that the salaries for these jobs will come under pressure in the medium term, further reducing the pay-off for good education. Besides, it will undermine t…

51/100: Profits and Quality in Private Sector Higher Ed

I am in Private Sector Higher Education in Britain and my work makes me explore the ways to reconcile the profit maximization motive, central to any private business, with the need to deliver a high quality (whatever that means, for the moment) education experience.

For a start, capacity utilization is seen as the key profit driver for education business. So, it is down to things like how many students in the class, how many hours does a tutor spend teaching, how much does the student pay and what does the institution have to pay the tutor. The perception of quality is seen in terms of experience - in the For-Profit Education world, the student is the customer - as in the quality of infrastructure, conformance to the implicit and explicit needs of the students (a job, it is presumed), quality of instruction etc. This is straightforward, except the fact that quality of instruction is often perceived to be better if the tutors are teaching lesser number of hours and there are lesser numb…

50/100: British For-Profit Education - Point of Departure

There are 157 Degree granting institutions in Britain, only 5 of them are privately funded. Two of them are in the news, The University of Buckingham, which got its charter in 1970s, and BPP, the Business, Accountancy and Legal Education company, which received its charter only recently. The others are Ashridge, a well-regarded business school, the College of Law, a legal education provider and IFS, which specializes in Financial Services training.

That is going to change, as the Government is making overtures that there will be much more welcoming approach to the private sector in education than there has been in the past. In fact, one can argue that the government has embarked on a risky strategy by cutting the funding for the universities and by allowing the universities to raise the fees, which can lead to a significant decrease in the number of people pursuing higher education, unless the private sector steps in, creates capacity and competition and expands access. The Quality As…

49/100: Roll Back Britain

For all the glory policy-makers want to claim, usually policy follows social realities and not the other way around. Indeed, I am in the middle of preparation for my dissertation on the Open University, and exploring how all the policy pronouncements about the University of the Air, that's how it was first named, were really a catch-up. The technology moved, social realities moved and all the Ministers were doing was a catch-up. It was no longer plausible to leave vast numbers of people in the country, 96% of the school leaving population at the time, outside the cycle of prosperity, hence the two bills of 1966, one to create the Polytechnics and the other to keep the Open University, though none acknowledged the other.

There was usually sneers from all quarters: The Tories called the plan 'blithering nonsense' and newspapers, with the exception of The Economist, were universally hostile. There were jibes about 'even housewives may want to learn'. The one thing that…

48/100: Interrogating the MBA

I am doing some work on what quality means in the context of our MBA programme, and the discussion is gradually pulling me to an uncharted territory. My initial ideas were, if I can claim, simple: I thought it meant keeping promises, delivering what was said in the prospectus. This was the textbook definition of quality as I understood it. However, it took me only a few conversations with students and tutors to see how differently each of these promises were understood, and how culturally specific some of the things I assumed we have said were. Besides, the enquiry opened up a whole new discussion about the content of the MBA programme, its objectives and what it must achieve in the end to be valuable.

My starting point was the Benchmark statements for a Business and Management Masters as provided by the Quality Assurance Agency of UK. (Can be accessed here) My understanding was that the MBA should be built around General Management, and ideally avoid narrow subject specialisms. The QA…

47/100: Sense and Nonsense

I wish email software programmes had an 'Unsend' button. Sometimes, that would have saved lives; more often, this would have saved marriages, friendships and definitely, jobs. It is surely not impossible to undo an email sent - unlike a bullet fired - but just unappealing. However, surely, a Google Engineer someday will give his 20% time on this. That will be realizing the unrealized potential of Outlook's Recall function, which, if I remember correctly, usually used to send a second email saying that 'the sender has recalled the previous email'. That was my definitive example of pure nonsense: Indeed, I tried and failed before.

I spend a lot of time thinking about expressions which rule our lives and claims that we believe in. Expressions such as 'Taxpayers' Money'. When was taxpayers' money really taxpayers' money? Who would want to spend a few billion pounds keeping the Trident missile system, which, okay, can flatten Moscow and St Petersberg …

46/100: Where Do I Go From Here

Hi Supriyo,

Trust all is well with you.

All is well with me.

Have been trying to bring a long dialog with myself to conclusion, and have had recent
breakthroughs, largely thanks to your posts about your journey.

I stepped out of my "job" a month back. In your words, "I am not looking for a job." Doing nothing more significant than creating more debt and having a good time at home with family.

Have been through a good bit the last two years. Terrible stuff but very instructive.

Haven't been happier.

Would like to see 46/100 if you think it is ok.

Best regards and lot of gratitude,

S.

This is the first mail I saw when I turned on my Blackberry on my way to office. This is from a friend whose words made my day. He has taken the leap of faith; whatever I said in my blog, I haven't reached there yet.

Today was a somewhat special day for me. Exactly a year ago, I walked out of my job: A job that I hated, but was one I could have held on to. I walked out, foolishly…

45/100: The Start Or The End of War of Civilizations

Today can be anything: Start of a prolonged war of civilizations or the end of it. Let us hope it is the end, as it appears to be. The most important figurehead of Islamic extremism is gone. This may not weaken the Al Queda units across the world in real terms, because of their decentralized nature, but this should rob them of their most recognizable icon and the most effective recruitment tool. This should lead to a thaw in Afghanistan, give Americans the breathing space they need. This should allow other Muslim leaders to emerge in the limelight, hopefully with more moderate voices.

On America's side, this may mean a boost for Obama, which should be good for America and the world. Obama isn't unduly combative, not a war president like his predecessor. He is measured and cerebral - he took great pains to emphasize that America is not at war with Muslims - and he understands the dangers of stoking the flames more than anyone else. While the dancing crowds outside white house an…

History Moment: Obama Announces Bin Laden's Death

44/100: The Power of Followership - Derek Sivers

43/100: Three Things I Learned While My Plane Crashed - Ric Elias

42/100: The New Social Learning

I have been reading Tony Bingham and Marcia Conner's timely book, The New Social Learning, which points to the social nature of organizational learning. I would rate this book only 3 out of 5, and found parts of it quite laborious to read. Lots of it reads like PowerPoint slides put together, which makes it quite dry and difficult to engage with: However, the book nonetheless makes important points that any Learning and Development practitioner should take notice of.

The central thesis of the book is to conjoin the psychological and sociological approaches of learning theories together. Starting from the point of organizational learning, indeed Tony Bingham heads ASTD, or the American Society for Training and Development, which is one of the most respected professional associations for training and development practitioners in the world. Their approach, however, centers around facilitating a 'learning organization', through 'paving online community roads' and 's…

Creative Commons License

AddThis