So I have been thinking a lot about the “future of the university,” and a lot of ideas have come to mind about what could change in future universities. I thought about writing about cost of tuition, technology, inclusion and diversity, or the evolution of tenure. With each of these ideas, I ran into the same problem that there really shouldn’t be a broad change that makes all universities similar in one regard. So instead of the “future of the university,” I’m going to say that change will come as the “futures of universities,” plural for a reason. As we’ve seen throughout this PFP class, each location (country, state, school) works differently, and education policies that work in one country are different than the way education functions in another. There is no single “cookie cutter” way of running a university. So if I were to pick something that would change in the future of the university, I would say it should be that we stop putting education into boxes. Yes, it would be nice to have some changes for a better university, but who defines what “better” actually means? As with any of these constructs (cost of tuition, use of technology, inclusion and diversity, or tenure in higher education), we can find pros and cons with each. For example, some may see that tuition being free in some countries is a great idea, whereas others will focus on the higher cost of taxes that must accompany free tuition in order for that money to be covered. In the United States, we do pay less in taxes that countries that have free tuition, but then people sometimes end up with hundreds of thousands of dollars in school debt. Who is to say that one way is better than another? It really depends on whose perspective you view it from. So the futures of the universities will depend on when and where each university is. I hope that we can appreciate some of these differences from one university to the next so that we can continue to impact learning in a more constructive way.
It is hard to say what changes should come next in any given university. To use the technology example I mentioned above, If you were to ask someone 20 years ago about what changes universities would undergo as of today, I doubt that many people would see how technology would have such an impact on education. I think back to my undergraduate public speaking class that was about 10 years ago now. Of the 25 people in the class, each giving several speeches throughout the semester, only one person in one speech utilized PowerPoint. So part of me is seeing that the future of the university is now! Seeing so many blogs in the past month about how technology influences education has reminded me just how much we actually do utilize technology. I don’t think that I have ever actually gone into the library to find a journal article. I just go into the online databases and download the pdf. I think technology will continue to be the future of all universities, but each in their own way. I have had the privilege of teaching online, hybrid online, and in class formats of college classes. Just as these classes can operate from different formats, so can universities use it in unique ways. One could look at this as a spectrum of reliance on technology. Some universities are completely online whereas on the other end of the spectrum, technology can be sparsely used in other types of higher education. The beauty of it is in how each is able to facilitate learning in its own way. I hope we can continue to learn from the ways that people do things elsewhere so that we can always try to improve learning as it works where we are. And that will lead to the futures of universities!