flagship is not medallion university

The rising demand for post secondary education, particularly in the developing countries has lead to a rapid expansion of institutions or the consolidation and upgrading of others. The problem is that it has stretched thin a limited or non-existent qualified faculty and under-developed facilities. The current effort to emulate the largely western model of a post secondary institution cannot be maintained. China has determined that, even with its fiscal resources it must focus on certain areas and reduce its program of campus creation. The western institutions have met this challenge by allowing cross institution matriculation and similar expansion of its previously parochial idea of regionally identified or dominated models. Other efforts, such as competency-based certification is breaking the hegemony of a lock-step, largely age-defined path from matriculation to graduation and entrance into civic society.

Unfortunately, the developing countries are still focused on the idea of a traditional, flagship, institution in the traditional model. There is still hope that such a flagship institution can compete for ranking with similar institutions in other countries, particularly if sufficient resources can be secured. There is even the idea that such an institution can compete, pare passu, with internationally identified major research institutions that have the advantage of sunk capital, a secure, well qualified faculty and significant operational resources. At the heart of the problem is qualified faculty both for carrying out high impact research and for providing advanced degree instruction in the undergraduate programs.

The latter is the weakest link because most students in developing countries have a weak primary/secondary education, often leaving them with an academic deficit which makes success in a university problematic. For many institutions, where faculty, weak in their discipline as well as having little education to deal with students with academic deficits, there is need to lower their expectations and thus lower passing levels. One might call this the 50% solution, the expected level for a passing grade in a class. Unfortunately this continues the passage of weak students through the system and even into the post baccalaureate programs. The problem becomes evident if, the next time, one goes to a medical clinic and asks of the provider which 50% did you not pass in your courses.

One then realizes that “flagship” is a country designation and does not necessarily mean a comparison even to parallel institutions in other countries. It definitely is not a means of comparison to those recognized medallion institutions whose qualifications are accepted across geo/political borders whether small, admission selective, private baccalaureate colleges or major research universities.

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