Published on 2012/05/25

Collaboration Is The Way Forward For Higher Education

Mark C. Taylor, chairman of Columbia University’s department of religion, wrote in the Bloomberg View last week that inter-institutional competition is deteriorating the higher education system.

Much like higher education’s construction race, school rankings which compare schools across a variety of metrics—which ultimately affect an institution’s ability to recruit top-notch students and star faculty—are leading institutions to make “warped” decisions. For example, despite the glut of doctoral graduates in the United States, increasing numbers of colleges and universities are adding more doctoral programs in the name of rankings.

Taylor points out that increased competition in higher education “often discourages risk-taking, leads to overly cautious, short-term decisions, produces a mediocre product for the price, and promotes excessive spending on physical plants and bureaucracies”.

He argues that in the face of declining public funding and increasing scrutiny on the higher education system, colleges and universities should be finding ways to cooperate “in the same way that companies merge and become more efficient”.

He argues that schools should focus on particular strength-subject niches rather than trying to provide everything to everyone. In situations where this is not plausible, he suggests that institutions develop partnerships that would allow them to share faculty, allowing a greater mobility of knowledge. This idea is exemplified by the online learning partnership announced between Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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