Editor: Christina Chow & Clement Leung; Published on: Nov 9th, 2018.
With declining societal confidence and diminishing value of a university degree, the book Redefining University Leadership for the 21st Century could not come at a more opportune time. The ever-increasing tuition fees and ballooning student debts, bloated administrative costs and student dissatisfaction should sound alarm bells for the viability of universities. When technology and artificial intelligence make knowledge rapidly redundant, how can universities future-proof their graduates in this fast-changing world of the fourth industrial revolution and artificial intelligence
In this brilliantly insightful book, the authors pin-point the market failures and the management practices that have led to the erosion of public confidence in universities.
They examine the consequences of market failures caused by the marketization of higher education: an oversupply of graduates, mismatch between qualifications and needed skills, student disillusionment, and the diminishing return on investments by students and their families. The marketable “excellence” of universities is artificially constructed on ranking metrics which neglect the core academic mission. Instead of serving the needs of society, they are focused primarily on achieving high ranks in league tables. Success in these rankings lulls them into a false sense of security and complacency. Poor management and bloated administration are major causes of high fees and student unaffordability. The crisis in college costs is eroding the democratic promise of higher education.
With local student demand flattening and graduate employability declining, some universities find themselves in financial stress. Escalating tuition, rising student debts, the unbundling of higher education services and the rapid advance of learning technologies mean that higher education is ripe for disruption. In their race to expand and pursue ranking excellence, universities have driven up costs and lost focus on their teaching mission. They are now unsustainably over-extended and unaffordable for much of the population. The commodification of higher education in the last century has made universities more vulnerable to disruptive competition.
While many university leaders revel in the explosion of international student growth and the revenues it brings, they ignore the omnipresent threat of disruption by new technologies. But the reliance on a limitless flow of fee-paying international students cannot be maintained, as their home countries’ universities are growing their own capacities. Universities in the West cannot afford to be complacent. They must look toward other emerging countries to understand the future of universities. For example, the meteoric rise of China’s university rankings has established the country as a global higher education player. While the West rests on their 20th century laurels, China is striving to be the world’s new science superpower in the next decade.
Furthermore, the current generation of university managers still rely on the antiquated command-and-control management methods and their management style is ill-suited for managing knowledge workers like academics. While work that are relatively structured may be relegated to AI, attention should be focused on non-standard creative work that does not lend itself to being managed. At the same time, the speed of the technological advances in the Fourth Industrial Revolution are growing exponentially in velocity, scope and impact, disrupting almost every industry sector in every country. Its impact and transformation affect the entire value chain and systems of current production, management and governance, which were largely based on the Second Industrial Revolution. These old management practices were designed to be linear and mechanistic, following a strict “top down” approach which is now obsolete in the new business models. Advanced technologies will perform at a level higher than human experts in terms of accuracy and output. They will also revolutionise multiple industry sectors simultaneously. Hence, the disruption of work practices and displacement of human workers will occur at a much faster speed than in the past. The technology-enabled reality will require university leaders to reimagine their business models and alter their mindset.
The book looks at the leadership qualities that are required to guide complex organizations such as universities. The unpredictable landscape demands a fresh approach as university presidents are increasingly subject to high resolution and three-dimensional scrutiny. Instead of relying on last century’s old management mindset, university leaders have to build institutions that are agile and flexible which can learn continuously. They must engage effectively with staff to explain why this culture of flexibility and innovation is critical for institutional survival. The rapidly changing and turbulent environment brought on by politics, society, economy and the environment requires a unique style of leadership - one that focuses on authenticity, systems thinking, openness, organizational learning and agility. Administrative growth is found to have an inverse relationship to institutional efficiency, and it raises issues of institutional priorities, public perception, and staff morale. The public is justified in looking to university governing boards to address this problem. The control of administrative costs should be a priority as it heavily affects the cost of tuition and, in turn, access. The use of Zero-Based Mindset in the financial management of universities is highly recommended.
The book offers valuable strategies to help university leaders and students succeed in this uncertain era. In addition to technical and specific knowledge, students need to acquire stable core skills which are resistant to change and difficult for AI to program. These core skills relate to human characteristics such as judgment, abstraction, empathy, critical thinking, optimism, entrepreneurialism, cultural intelligence, association and system thinking: all essential abilities relevant across industry sectors. In fact, a liberal arts and science education can offer such training and prepare students for complexity and constant change. While science provides the technical know-how, humanities teach students critical thinking and help students to become adaptable, to learn and think independently. To prepare students for a successful career they need to develop the intellectual and emotional intelligence to cope with uncertainty and ambiguity. When students are exposed to liberal arts, they are likely to become more self-aware and self-disciplined, acquiring virtues such as empathy, compassion, resilience, and courage. In an age of mass production of degrees and diplomas, it is essential to examine what university education really means and supposes to do. The emphasis of a true university should be on the improvement of the mind and the understanding of truth.
About The Author:
Dr Christina Chow has an Honours degree in Microbiology and Immunology from Canada’s McGill University, a Master of Management from the Norwegian School of Management, and a Doctor of Business Administration from Australia’s University of Newcastle. Her previous publications include Reshaping Universities for Survival in the 21st Century: New Opportunities and Paradigms and Mission Possible? An analysis of Australian universities’ missions.
Professor Clement Leung has an honours degree in Mathematics from McGill University, Canada, an MSc in Mathematics from Oxford University, and a PhD in Computer Science from University College London. He holds two US patents, and his publications include four books and well over one hundred research articles in top high-impact journals. He is a Fellow of the British Computer Society, awarded a Chartered Fellow by the British Computer Society, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce.
Keywords: Higher Education, University Administration, Leadership, Universities in Crisis, Idea of a University, Academic Capitalism, Active Learning, Authentic Leadership, Blended Learning, Big Data, Graduate Employability, Learning Factory, Crisis Management, Fourth Industrial Revolution, FutureWork Skills, Global Education Hubs, University Governance, High-level machine intelligence (HLMI), Innovative University, Liberal Arts & Science Education