post secondary institutions- from the institutional perspective

From a contemporary perspective, there are a lot more voices in the discussion about contemporary education and its future at all levels. Part of this is due to the increased international visibility of all systems and the coupling of education more strongly to the economic world and international competitiveness of the work force.

The attention to the economics of the institutions themselves within an international context has resisted being placed squarely on the table. For example, the increasing costs of maintaining an academic campus/program is becoming more costly, driving many, even public institutions, to enter the global marketplace to recruit full tuition paying students, to actually open campuses abroad or to engage in practices similar to any business seeking a global market.

Globally, there have been efforts to form consortia to cut overhead in operations and even to leverage programs across institutions both from an educational perspective and for attracting funding for academic research. Much of this is driven by administrative consideration of fiscal needs. Questions of institutional and even national identity have not been fully articulated. Again, student needs to acquire skills that allow them to enter the economic life and the concerns of funding sources, public and private tend to over-ride the life of the mind as a principle focus. And, except for medallion institutions and select segments within academic institutions, the image, writ large, seems to also be commerce focused via branding and marketing programs similar to the private sector including sports promotion. The issue within the developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, is clearly in evidence as seen in the number of meetings and organizational attempts to leverage such collaboration while each country sees their central post secondary institution as a path to establish the country as a knowledge center in various disciplines.

Globally, there are more voices, both at the institutional level and more broadly. Students, increasingly are demanding to define both the institution from its environmental impact and function within the community at large (locally to internationally) to the mundane such as food served, to the pragmatic such as what type of educational experience they expect during their tenure at the institution. The increase in virtual opportunities, including intellectual mobility as well as international experience, if it hasn’t, soon will, drive the institutions themselves to better define their functions which may be radically different from the traditional “alma mater” and visions of an academic experience centered around the “bricks” of a past existence.

The demise and/or replacement of technologies seem to be understood by the public at large. Horse and Buggy replaced by the motorized vehicle or air transport are examples. While the replacement of social infrastructure is seen in shifting religious institutions such as polytheism of the Greeks and Romans for monotheism, it is hard, in a contemporary society to understand how academic institutions might change after over 1000 years of existence. Yet there have been and will continue to be changes. What might the education system in general and post secondary education in particular be looking forward?

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