This is the authors’ second book on universities in the 21st century, and it couldn’t come at a more relevant time, when public confidence in higher education is fading. With rising graduate unemployment, bloated administrative costs and student dissatisfaction, it’s no surprise that people are questioning the value of a degree, not to mention the university’s viability as an institution. If the essential work of teaching and research is to continue, the management model must change – and that begins with an honest examination of a university’s function and purpose.
In this marvellously insightful book, the authors offer some valuable strategies to help university leaders and students succeed in this uncertain era, when technology and artificial intelligence make knowledge rapidly redundant. They show us how thinking and behaviour need to change, from the top down. This book gets to the heart of what makes a great university – and one that can survive.
Professor Alfredo Milani
University of Perugia
In our 2016 book, Reshaping Universities for Survival in the 21st Century: New Opportunities and Paradigms, we described the landscape of higher education and the challenges facing universities. We reflected on the unintended consequences of competition and marketization, such as ballooning student debt, graduate unemployment, and academic capitalism. In this follow-up book, we examine in greater detail the consequences of market failures caused by the marketization of higher education: an oversupply of graduates, the exploitation of PhD students for cheap labor, student dissatisfaction, the mismatch between qualifications and needed skills, student disillusionment, and the diminishing return on investments by students and their families. These failures have all contributed to society’s loss of confidence in universities. The marketable “excellence” of universities is artificially based on ranking metrics which neglect the core academic mission of teaching. The volume of research produced has had poor outcomes and only served to enhance ranking metrics. Poor management and bloated administration are major causes of high fees and student unaffordability. While student demand declines in the West, China strives to be the world’s new science superpower. Meanwhile, there is the omnipresent threat of disruption by new technologies.
In our narrative, our purpose has been to search for the quintessence of the idea of a university, the key principle which has enabled the institution to survive. We explain how universities can future-proof university graduates in this fast-changing world and contribute to the public good. We argue that the old managerial models are incompatible with the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world (VUCA) we now face. Finally, we offer strategies for university leaders to lead effectively in the VUCA era, illustrated by a case study.
RMIT University Melbourne,
United International College,
China and Victoria University,
List of Contributors
RMIT University Melbourne
China and Victoria University