Universities are at an inflection point; so too is private higher education.
The education entrepreneurs and private equity backing education ventures may present private higher education as the solution to higher education's current woes. In reality, however, most private higher education institutions are innovation-challenged and fail regularly. While some, like University of Phoenix or Hult Business Schools, have managed to be financially successful for short periods of time, such success is both rare and has been short-lived. Private higher ed model needs as much rethinking as that of the universities.
In most countries, private higher education plays a demand-absorption role. When demographic or economic changes result in significant expansion of student numbers and public education, because of their nature as bureaucratic institutions dependent on advance planning without unfettered access to risk capital, private higher ed steps in to absorb the excess demand. However, what works well when demand expands, works badly when markets mature or the demand contracts. However, such a role, while it may be profitable for the promoters of the higher ed ventures who can get out at the right time, represents poor value for the investors and indeed, for the students, who often lose money and time when a private higher ed institution craters.
The other role that the private higher ed can play well - at least in theory - is of bridging the gap between education and employment. Indeed, it is commonly assumed that the private higher ed is better placed to anticipate the changes in the demand for talent and respond to it appropriately. But this is seldom the case, primarily because private institutions are often as process-driven as the public universities. Besides, as most private institutions are peopled by staff whose formative experience has been in public universities, it imports the mindset and culture of public universities as far as change and innovation are concerned. Locked in its own processes, led by people who explicitly prefer predictability over adaptability, private higher education usually does not better than its public counterpart in moving with the market for talent.
One additional challenge for private higher education is that it takes a long time to build a brand in education and these timescales are often longer than its investors will permit. The rare and temporary successes of private higher education almost always relate to rapid expansion of the market, either domestic (as in India) or from outside the country (as in Canada, United Kingdom or Australia). But these expansionary cycles don't last too long - fizzling out with the moment of truth in 5 to 7 years time!
My evidence on private higher ed failure is somewhat anecdotal (not sure anyone researched this systematically yet but I would be grateful for any pointer) but I have a speculative theory. Private Higher Education institutions are often one-trick ponies which stick closely to their leaders' areas of expertise. This helps at the time of expansion but markets change: Public universities, with time, expand into areas serviced by private higher ed and opportunities in new areas arise. In theory, private higher ed, with its years close to the market, should be effective in finding new opportunities and launching new forays, but in practise, they are worse than public universities in this regard. Their command-and-control culture comes in the way and they find it difficult to do curriculum or pedagogic change.
As I get engaged in private higher education, I am trying to steer away from these pitfalls. My advocacy of a design thinking approach, instead of making it easy for me, has made things more difficult: I foresook the easy way of doing the same thing over and over again with the expectation of different results. This does not win me any brownie points with the investors, who usually want a tried-and-tested formula without involving the inconvenient details of curriculum and pedagogy. Over time, I have also realised that the key difference between private and public education is how they treat their communities. Private Higher Ed exists for their shareholders and everything else is an outsider, whereas good public institutions are driven by both faculty and student voice. The conclusion that I drew from looking at successes and failures of private higher ed is that this community needs to be reimagined and a new type of private higher ed - platform institutions - needs to be built.
For me, this is common sense: The most successful businesses around the world is using such a model. They are thriving by creating value creation platforms - think of Apple iTunes or Google Playstore - and building communities of people which create the value. This isn't very different from the good universities, which are really trusted brands and shared spaces for education entrepreneurs and aspiring students to meet. Usually, the processes at private higher ed entities are derived from the factory age and many institutions boast about their process effciencies over and above what public universities do. But this is precisely what prevents private higher ed to build brands and achieve success across contexts. A platform model, that privileges connections over content, adaptability over predictably and excellence over efficiency, is needed to create a fit-for-purpose private higher ed model.
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
There is no other city like Kolkata for me: It is Home. The only city where I don't have to find a reason to go to, or to love. It is one city hardwired into my identity, and despite being away for a decade, that refuses to go away. People stay away from their homeland for a variety of reasons. But, as I have come to feel, no one can be completely happy to be away. One may find fame or fortune, love and learning, in another land, but they always live an incomplete life. They bring home broken bits of their homeland into their awkward daily existence, a cushion somewhere, a broken conversation in mother tongue some other time, always rediscovering the land they left behind for that brief moment of wanting to be themselves. The cruelest punishment, therefore, for a man who lives abroad is when his love for his land is denied. It is indeed often denied, because the pursuit of work, knowledge or love seemed to have gotten priority over the attraction of the land. This is particularly
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
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,
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
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
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
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.