Caught between a rock and a hard place

By Vasant Dhar

Fundamentally, university leaders must recognise that the world has changed forever.

By Vasant Dhar

The current university operating model – a combination of research and learning, degree programmes, and schools organised into faculties – has remained virtually unchanged since the 18th century. The business model is based on a cost function of that era, where high investment in arduous travel and the necessity of physical presence for access to both teachers and books empowered the “bundling” of courses to amortise the costs of physically attending a university.

Over the decades many refinements have gone into what constitutes a “good bundle” of courses. But the internet, by virtue of being global, instantaneous, mobile, social and free, has unleashed a dizzying array of learning modalities that were not previously possible and essentially disrupt this bundle.

Each component of the bundle can now be provided very effectively by a high-quality specialist at scale. Introductory and vocational style courses are the first target; hundreds have mushroomed on the internet and are eagerly consumed by millions of people globally. The specialists assert that their inexpensive product is better suited for employment, a theme that plays well with large numbers of people concerned about their economic future in an increasingly competitive and fast changing jobs marketplace.

Read the full article as published in the Financial Times.

Vasant Dhar is Professor and Head of the Information Systems Group and Co-Director of Stern's Center for Business Analytics.

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