I wrote about universities as user networks earlier (see post). Since then, I have engaged into several projects attempting to challenge the existing models of Higher Education, and it is worthwhile to clarify the concept farther.
The key argument that the universities of the future will look different from those today because their business model is likely to change remains intact. The framework of this argument draws upon Clayton Chistensen's work, and view organisations through the prism of three distinct business models: Solution Shops, Value Chain and User Networks.
Solution Shop business models are employed by Professional Service firms, which, as in a Law Firm, assemble a team of experts to solve each individual problem. Their business model is to create value through providing solutions to complex problems, and the key value determinant remains the expertise of the individuals involved.
Value Chain business models, in contrast, create value through a process, which transforms the raw material input into a processed output. It is obviously the business model of the factory, and by far, the most popular modern form of business. The ability to create value resides, for these organisations, in the strength and relevance of their processes.
User Network business models derive their value from the network, by connecting 'stakeholders' (a cliched but perhaps the most appropriate term). This is the business model of telecom companies, for example: No one would want to subscribe to a network of one. The business model depends on creating a platform by providing infrastructure for users to come together, and value is created through the number of nodes, or connections. This is the reason why everyone wants an Open network, rather than a closed one: Because once you are a network business, the value comes from not from the excellence of your processes, but how many people you can connect.
Now, the modern university, state funded and process driven, is very much a value chain business. It takes the young students and attempt to turn them into citizens, employees and consumers. But it was not always so. Before its modern institutional form emerged, it was very much spaces led by a 'Guru' who instructed rich kids to solve the problems of life. The value of the university came from the expertise of the people involved (in some cases, it still does): So it operated more under a solution shop model than the value chain. It was only through a complex set of social changes, the rise of professional management and large scale industrial enterprise, the creation of welfare state, a professionalised academic class, and the rise of standardised testing and textbook industry, that the universities emerged as process driven, multinational entities that they are now. In essence, they did not choose the 'Value Chain' business model: It was the most relevant form that emerged corresponding with the industrial civilisation.
Several reasons why that is now changing. Businesses are getting smaller, work is more varied and entrepreneurship more common, both inside and outside an employment. Content is no longer king in the age of Google, context is. The welfare state is receding and the modern consumers are born indebted more or less. Technologies are transforming the nature of the communities, where, the value of personal relationships notwithstanding, keeping in touch is increasingly easier. The intense intellectual connection still matters, but what's new is the ecosystem of shallow connections that sustain our ideas and enterprises today. Globalisation has thrown new challenges to our industrial forms, leading to a sort of disaggregation and rise of aspirations at an unprecedented global scale. So, if we view the modern university as a fundamental social technology enabling the creation and functioning of modern society, time to change has perhaps come.
There is another reason why universities as user networks may make sense. Whenever the case of universities has to be argued, the golden days of universities as knowledge communities are usually invoked. Critics and advocates of university life both seem to agree on this one point, that the rise of modern bureaucratic university has undermined what the universities were meant to be, a place of conversations and connections. Indeed, the dogged historians of university life would justifiably claim that this was only an idealistic view of what universities were (and usually say that universities were always a collection of different things), but even if this is idealistic, this reflects a deep and consistent desire of what the universities could be. The tyranny of the processes, couched in the vacuous claim of 'quality', often ran counter to the community, the collegiality being subordinated often to the committees of various hues. The disjuncture, that the society has changed and is demanding the transformation of the university, may result in several different things, but transforming the university as a meeting place, a social infrastructure to enable conversations among the various shaping forces, may reclaim the university ideal all over again.
This is the shape that seems to be emerging. I see the creation of an open system of education, freed up from the artificially erected barriers of what can't be done, into one where employers, educators and communities can all contribute. I see that the change of the nature of knowledge, from the received truth to knowledge-as-conversation underpinning a new system of learning engagement, where learners come together to explore and to connect, and to join global communities united by interest rather than accidents of geography or social or linguistic groups. I see commercial and community interests in alignment and in contrast, but together shaping a dialogue that enables a new form of education. And, I see new universities as the container, an enabler, a social infrastructure, to provide a safe and productive space for such interactions to be had. That I see as the university of the future, at ease with the society as well as its own ideal.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
The ‘Why’ Question? Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor by President Von Hindenburg on 30th January 1933. This was an extraordinary turn of events. Previously, President Von Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint Hitler the Chancellor, despite the impressive electoral performance of NSDAP in July 1932, Hitler’s uncompromising demand of the Chancellor’s post and a repeat election in November 1932 which failed to break the deadlock. Explaining his refusal, Hindenburg wrote in a letter on 24th November, “a presidential cabinet led by you would develop necessarily into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extraordinary accentuation of the conflicts in the German people.” The question ‘why’ Hitler was appointed Chancellor, despite the President being acutely aware of what might follow, is therefore a significant one. The NSDAP had election successes throughout 1932, and was already the biggest single party in the Reichstag and various Landtags acros
In our age, the only way to be politically correct is to be democratic. This is a post-70s affair - those days, still, some people had alternative ideologies in mind. Those alternate ideas are dead and gone, long discredited, and it seems that we have only one system which can make people happy, free and live longer. So, we have this huge export industry of democracy, and democracy's warriors, which the American security establishment has lately become. The democracy's businessmen, the bond traders, the media barons and the Hollywood types, are feted everywhere. The consensus is deafening and dumbing. It is indeed awkward to ask now - whether democracy is the right system for every society. It indeed should be. Collective wisdom is better than individual autocracy. In societies where democratic elections have been few and far between, the popular vote has demonstrated the extra-ordinary political savvy of the usually disinterested masses. Democracy has proved to be an excell
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.